Volume One Special Coverage: Pulling Together While Staying Apart

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Beyond Winning and Losing

young athletes’ dedication and skill doesn’t always show up in the standings

Luc Anthony

Recent trophies and awards won by Regis High School, including the WIAA Division 6 football trophy at right. Image: Regis Catholic Schools
Recent trophies and awards won by Regis High School, including the WIAA Division 6 football trophy at right. Image: Regis Catholic Schools

What is the feeling when you do your job, and you are unable to achieve the end result … repeatedly? Perhaps you do a fine job, one recognized by your superiors – and yet you have little or nothing to show? How do you come to terms with supreme effort and talent leading to little in payoff?

Such is the world of sports, where for every win there is a loss. The recently-concluded Chippewa Valley football season brought both. The Eau Claire Regis Ramblers ran the table, winning all 13 of their games, the finale being the state championship victory at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison. One of the other high schools in the same city, North, never got a win.

For those of us who don’t play the game, the temptation exists to look at the Ramblers and gaze in awe at the feats of athletic prowess, and then to consider the Huskies and wonder how the games were played. Of course, those of us who never played have never known the practice, the focus, the attention, the planning, the training, and every other aspect of the game of football that each player executes. All do – not all can win.

For those of us who don’t play the game, the temptation exists to look at the Ramblers and gaze in awe at the feats of athletic prowess, and then to consider the Huskies and wonder how the games were played. Of course, those of us who never played have never known the
practice, the focus, the attention, the planning, the training,
and every other aspect of the game of football that each player
executes. All do – not all can win.

For those of us who don’t play the game, the temptation exists to look at the Ramblers and gaze in awe at the feats of athletic prowess, and then to consider the Huskfies and wonder how the games were played. Of course, those of us who never played have never known the practice, the focus, the attention, the planning, the training, and every other aspect of the game of football that each player executes. All do – not all can win.

We also may not understand the pride of playing for your school. This is not professional football, which is a business – a transactional relationship in which a general manager and/or a coach decides you can help them win but can also decide when you no longer can help them win and choose to get rid of you at the first available opportunity. This is high school football, where you play for a team representing the school that draws its students from within geographic boundaries (with the exception of a handful of open enrollment kids). You play with your peers, you play for the coach who is also your teacher, you play for your parents and your friends’ parents and your neighbors and the boss at your part-time job. There is a stronger emotional bond between a student athlete and his high school than between the members of a pro team and the city where they work.

If your team wins most – or, in the case of Regis, all – of its games, that pride is enhanced. However, what if your team wins few – or, in the case of North, none – of its games? Is that pride reduced? You, I, and most non-players cannot answer that question, but in reading and hearing about the time commitment put into sports by athletes of all ages, you realize that the pride exists.

Top-notch players have come through high schools across the Chippewa Valley with varying end-of-season records. Just because a team had FBS-level recruits does not guarantee a conference champion; witness the Nate Stanley- and Mason Stokke-led Menomonie Mustangs, Big Rivers Conference runners-up in 2015. Yet, regardless of the caliber of prior player, there is an honor in putting on the uniform, wearing the colors and the helmet, and running out to your home field.

Most importantly, there is always hope. This season, the Blugold football team won two games – only one in their conference, the WIAC. Many might sense a disappointing season, but if you are familiar with the program, you know that a reconstruction is underway, and this season witnessed tangible progress from a winless 2015.

Some of the players from the current era may never suit up for a Blugolds squad that finishes a season above .500, but for current players – even this year’s seniors – a certain satisfaction can be generated from knowing that they were part of the program’s resurrection. A WIAC title and Division III playoff spot may never materialize for them, but their choice of UW-Eau Claire for their college football careers may pay off in the example they set for the players of the late 2010s and early ’20s.

Ultimately, remember that the players for all of our area high school and college teams were good enough to make the cut, and many of us fans can only imagine having the skill or dedication needed to be one of the few to get to wear the jersey.  They play for the love of the game. A scoreboard could never reflect the result that matters to them.

Lasker Jewelers
Lasker Jewelers

Pulling Together Partners

The following organizations are currently supporting Volume One’s work in the community during the pandemic:

Lasker Jewelers

L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, Eau Claire

Downtown Eau Claire Inc DECI

University of Wisconsin Eau Claire

Pablo Group

Wisconsin Independent Network

Middle West Management

Bon Iver

Royal Credit Union

Silver Spring

Evergreen Surgical

Charter Bank

Chippewa Valley Technical College

The Murty Henriksen Family

The Larry and Marie Past Family

The Dan and Kerry Kincaid Family

Anton and Rae Schilling-Smets

Brady and Jeanne Foust

If your organization is interested in supporting Volume One during this difficult time, nick@volumeone.orgcontact us.