Never think you’ve seen it all

One question I often get asked after nearly 30 years of covering high school sports is whether I ever get bored watching sports.
That’s an easy question. I could never imagine being bored, because the people and the circumstances and their stories are always changing. I can’t wait for the next play, the next game, to see what happens. It is new for the people involved, so it’s new to me.
I was reminded by two events recently that no matter how long I cover sports, I will always be surprised by young people when they are given the opportunity.
The first event was at a New Richmond volleyball match late this season. New Richmond athletic director Casey Eckardt couldn’t get the CD player to work to play the national anthem. So he went over to the New Richmond student fan section and asked the students if they’d sing the national anthem.
I believe every adult in the gym was smiling by the end of the anthem. Nearly every one of the students took the task to heart. It was clear that some of the kids weren’t choir members, but the rendition was perfect because of its imperfections. The students sang loudly, proudly, from the heart.
The second event was during the minutes following the Division 2 sectional cross country meet at Amery. These are always mob scenes with hundreds of people squeezed into a tiny area around the finish line, with clusters of color where each team is gathered. In the middle of the St. Croix Central huddle, Coach Bill Emery was talking with his runners. Out of the mass of blue came a yell, “group hug.” Within moments, Emery was engulfed, with dozens of his athletes joining in the hug. Emery was momentarily speechless, a rarity indeed, but it’s probably difficult to speak with a smile that wide.

Systematic success
Watching last Friday’s Somerset-Ellsworth football team reinforced the importance of a successful system being the key to any team’s long-range success.
These are two teams that rose to the top of the Middle Border Conference through the work they did in the past offseason. Every coaching staff works hard. But it is the coaching staffs that find the correct system for their situation that succeed over the long run.
Many of the teams you’ll see in the state championships don’t run complex offensive systems. Their systems may be centered around a couple base plays. But they run those few plays like clockwork. Systematic success is the product of hard work in practice and extensive knowledge of the system by the coaches.

A tribute
Our area lost a special gentleman last week when Stuart Nelson passed away from cancer.
I became friends with Stuart in 1990 when we both accompanied the New Richmond Marching Band on its Euro-Russia trip that brought the band worldwide fame. Stuart was fun-loving and passionate and he would do anything for a cause he believed in. We are all fortunate that he believed in a number of worthy causes, because his efforts have made this area a special place to live.
Stuart was my main source for the events of the Star Prairie Fish and Game association. He was a perfect spokesman. His years in banking made him polished in the art of friendly persuasion. He was so passionate about the group’s activities. He wasn’t looking for credit though. He would always say it was another member’s project or idea, making sure credit went where it was due.
The projects around Cedar Lake, especially the McMurtrie Preserve, were near and dear to his heart. He always hoped to make outdoor educational opportunities available for kids.
I always admired Stuart. He lived a passionate life. He enjoyed life, but he also tried to make everyone’s life better. I know he made mine better and I’m guessing there’s a long list of people who would say the same thing.

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