My graduating class at Exeter Public Schools in Exeter, Nebraska, had 18 students. When track season approached, we’d huddle around the sacred compilation of track stats meticulously collected and maintained by Coach Shafer. The packet was updated and reprinted (dot-matrix!) every year, and covered decades of personal bests, school records and statistics telling stories of tracksters past. Fortunately, Coach Shafer had several copies so we wouldn’t rip each other to shreds fighting for them.
But why, you might ask, would so many students in a single class care about track statistics?
Because, somewhere in that packet, was our name.
Being in a small school meant no tryouts; anyone could participate–be it volleyball, football, basketball or track. In my days at EHS we didn’t have “luxury” sports like soccer or softball, but that was okay. We had the opportunity to compete and spend time with our peers, and that was enough. It was awesome to do well competitively (and our school often did), but at the same time, coaches at Exeter Public Schools tried their best to make sure that, at least once in a while, everyone got a chance to participate. In junior high, I was the worst basketball player in the universe (not an exaggeration). I remember an away game in nearby Friend; Coach White put me in–and kept me in-even though I played horribly. I’m pretty sure I was called for traveling at least four times. Bless her heart.
Our coaches cared about how we, as young people, were evolving. It’s awesome to win, no matter what part of the bench you occupy, but in hindsight the real Glory Days are the ones you mastered a new skill or were recognized as a leader of your team. You can’t put a price on that, and our coaching staff realized it. So, I say to them: