This year as I give thanks, I’m thinking about the coaches in our community. Participation in sports is important for kids of all ages, and it is made possible by the men and women who give their time and energy to teach youngsters about sports.

These efforts have benefits that extend far beyond the playing field. Research shows that sports participation improves grades, decreases dropout rates, and decreases rates of drug use and teen pregnancy. If I could write a prescription so that each of my young patients participated in sports, I would do it in a heartbeat. Participating in sports is simply one of the healthiest things teenagers can do, and coaches are the most essential elements in keeping those teens participating.

The funny thing about coaches is that they almost never give themselves credit. I was speaking with Chris Pingitore this week, congratulating him after Yarmouth won its first Class C football state championship. Chris is not the only outstanding member of the Yarmouth coaching staff. Yarmouth’s head coach, Jim Hartman, collected a fistful of coach of the year awards after the 2009 season.

Football was a new sport in Yarmouth eight years ago when Chris started coaching there. The school was without a football tradition, it had no football trophy case, and no program to build on. The school’s best athletes traditionally went out for soccer. But Chris took up the challenge, anyway.

In fact, Chris had so much faith in the young men he was working with that he said to them, “If you stick with football and keep improving, you can go all the way to states.” Those were bold words, especially at the time.

The thing is, those kids believed in Chris and they learned to believe in themselves. Chris moved up with them, leading the group into high school. Together they became a tight unit.

Finally, last Saturday, Chris’ words were proven true. Yarmouth made it to the state championship game. The Clippers battled through injuries and overcame all the obstacles in their path.

Finally they stood atop Class C.

And what did their coach have to say about all of this? Would he accept some well-deserved credit for the season, the victory or the years of hard work? What about all of those cold afternoons he stood on the practice field over eight years and helped make a group of kids into champions? “It’s their victory. The guys did a great job, each and every one of them. It’s a special team.”

There may be no ‘I’ in team but there is no team without a dedicated coach. This year on Thanksgiving, spend a moment with me giving credit to all of those leaders who stand on the sideline, helping the kids in our community learn lessons about integrity, dedication and teamwork. Give a coach a pat on the back.

Dr. James Glazer is a sports medicine physician for Coastal Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Freeport. He serves as a consultant for the Portland Pirates and the U.S. ski team.