You can probably tell more about a person from how they handle losing and respond to losing than how they react when they're victorious.
As a hockey family, we traveled all over the state and region on countless weekends over many winters as our sons played in games and tournaments.
Their teams lost a lot of games. A lot of lopsided games. Yes, there were bright spots and big wins here and there, but we spent a lot of time trying to not only boost their spirits but also take advantage of an opportunity to teach some important life lessons. "You're building character," we'd say again and again after another sad-faced, shoulder-slumped kid would mope from the locker room to us waiting in the arena lobby.
"I'm tired of building character!" one of our sons snapped as we walked to our vehicle after another defeat. He was so upset on another occasion that he teared up. When we did our best to encourage him and tried to utilize our best parental positivity, he said he felt terrible that we sacrificed so much of our time and spent so much of our money driving all over the place to all these hockey games, only to watch him lose. Of course we told him that we wouldn't have it any other way and that we were proud and all of that good stuff. But we knew what was at the heart of it all and why he was so emotional: Losing is no fun.
That's what I keep going back to when people want to contribute to the current debate taking place on the future of Pirate sports. After an opening discussion at a school district Long Range Planning Committee meeting last week, it seems like sort of a given that there is going to be a reduction in the number of Pirate sports that are offered.
This probably needs to happen, and the chief reason or at least the primary factor driving the decision should be competitiveness. Pirate teams on the whole lose far more often than they win, and in too many instances they're being routed.
But high school sports aren't all about winning, many will say. And they're right. Definitely, being a high school student-athlete is about building character and leadership skills and learning lessons that will stick with you for life. But a nice dose of success, and not just a surprising run but sustained success, certainly puts more smiles on everyone's faces.
If there’s a school district similar in size to Crookston that offers the sports Crookston does, I’m unaware of it. Enrollment has dropped consistently for years, and not only has the number of activities not been reduced, it's actually grown. That's fantastic, you might conclude, but Pirate rosters are spread thin as a result, thinner than just about every team they play, no matter the sport.
Pirate football plays several teams in the fall that don't offer boys' soccer. Pirate football coach Scott Butt has been known to say jokingly of the bigger, stronger football players in schools along the Highway 10 corridor that "it must be something in the water" down there that makes the boys so burly and brawny. Or, maybe, more solid student-athletes play football at those schools because soccer isn't an option. You could say the same for volleyball. The Pirates play several schools that don't offer girls' soccer in the fall. In winter, the basketball teams play several schools that don't offer boys' or girls' hockey.
Our Pirate sport with the biggest participation numbers, track and field, doesn’t even have a home track to call its own.
We have so many sports, finding not just coaches but good coaches and good assistant coaches is a constant challenge.
Football, volleyball, boys' and girls' soccer, boys' and girls' tennis, boys' and girls' golf, wrestling, boys' and girls' hockey, boys' and girls' basketball, boys' and girls' track and field, boys' and girls' trapshooting, girls' swimming, baseball and softball. There’s figure skating, too (not a school sport, but it still attracts a lot of girls), and Treasurettes dance line. They're even trying to introduce Crookston kids to lacrosse. Cool sport, don't get me wrong, but, really? Here? Now?
There are a lot of families in Crookston that don't have the time or the money to put their kids in a lot of youth sports. Pirate student-athletes who might like to watch their friends’ games and cheer them on often don't get to because so many games are scheduled at the same time. Have you seen the Pirates' so-called "student section" at some of these games? There's often not a lot there.
If this column is coming across as sort of scatter-brained and all over the map, it's simply because the justifiable reasons to reduce the number of Pirate sports that are currently offered pop into the mind with such rapidity. On the flip side, the list of logical reasons to leave things as they current stand is mighty short.
These kids have built enough character.