Powell High School held its annual year-end Athletic Awards Night earlier this week, recognizing coaches and athletes from all of the fall and winter sports and honoring their commitment to their school and their programs.
Northwest College held a similar event just a couple of weeks ago, and a comment made by a coach in the days that followed really resonated, though it’s one we rarely think about when we’re in the moment.
“It’s a shame we only have these kids for such a short time,” said NWC head women’s basketball coach Cam Levett wistfully. “It really goes by so quick for them.”
If one takes a moment to think about it, it’s amazing, really. Participation in organized sports, for those who choose to play, occupies a relatively brief moment of our lives. Despite how much we may have enjoyed competing in high school or college, most of us see our athletic careers end in our 20s, as youth transitions into adulthood and we embrace the responsibilities that come with it. That competitive spirit may be fed by golf outings or softball leagues, but really comes alive for us again as the next generation discovers its own path in athletics. We realize that, despite the brevity of our own athletic careers and accomplishments, that particular time in our lives made a lasting impact.
That knowledge becomes the reason we turn out for games, regardless of the weather. It’s why parents pile on the miles on vehicles that can carry eight kids, and in a state like Wyoming, where everything is always six hours away no matter where you start, those miles add up quickly. We become fundraiser merchants, pitching candy bars and raffle tickets to friends and co-workers (or buying from them) to help alleviate costs for equipment and entry fees; we plan our vacations around summer soccer and baseball tournaments.
And at the end of the day, we’re glad we did. It’s a memorable experience for the kids, and a way to share a part of what we were like at their age.
The teams and athletes recognized at Monday’s award celebration have learned, through sports, how to set goals and achieve them. They’ve experienced the ups and downs of team play, learning to work together with others they may never have a reason to otherwise.
They’ve learned to fail, but not quit; not always the easiest lesson to learn.
They are, as activities director Tim Wormald said in his opening remarks Monday night, “humble in victory and gracious in defeat — kids that learn to win and lose with class, dignity and integrity.” Those qualities are essential as they move forward with their lives.
Though award ceremonies are designed to recognize the standouts in each sport, there are countless other young athletes in our community just as committed. They’re the grinders, staying after practice to work on their jump shot or corner kick and hustle their neighbors for fundraising donations; they endure the long bus rides and embrace their roles on the team as a way to contribute to the team’s success. They sacrifice, often playing a position they would prefer not to for the betterment of the team.
They are benefiting from the experience, as are we, and as we once did. And we’re better because of it.