Should having the most successful athletic program in Wyoming be our goal?

Mar 27, 2012 By Craig Blumenshine, Staff Writer

A discussion at the school board meeting earlier this month was remarkable.

After months and months of work including surveys, player interviews, parent interviews, coach interviews and a bit of community introspection, a strategic planning committee made up of school and community members brought forth its recommendations to make the district's athletic programs not only good, but the most successful in the state.

And the school board and superintendent support that movement that extends clear down to the elementary school level.

That's a pretty lofty goal.

"This is huge for our district. I just can't tell you how much this would mean to us, and we could have the opportunity to make a huge change -- and the board cannot drop the ball," the board president said.

But, in regard to athletics, what does that word 'success' mean?

And, for a school district, should that be a goal at all? Conversely, why shouldn't having the most successful athletic program in our state be one of our central goals?

For some in the group, success means winning state titles.

For others, including the school superintendent, success means being the best that we can possibly be at any given time. Success, the superintendent says, shouldn't be all about winning.

Part of the work of the strategic planning committee accomplished took some courage. The group identified what the district currently is doing well but also wanted to recognize areas in regard to school athletics, clear down to the lower levels, where the district considers itself weak.

That's not always an easy thing to do.

The district has recognized that there is room for improvements of its athletic programs, both competitive and developmental.

The school district and community that tackled these issues and put forth formal recommendations wasn't Riverton's school district, but a small school district in central North Dakota.

This district in Jamestown, by the way, is one of the smaller schools in its class and has to compete annually against the larger Fargos (substitute Gillettes) and Bismarcks (substitute Cheyennes) of their world.

Sound familiar?

So could it be worthwhile to ask ourselves, formally, whether our community and school athletic programs are the best they can possibly be?

We invest significantly in both personnel and facilities to support our current programs.

Right now, for example, we have a fifth-grade girls competitive basketball team, but not a spring girls team in the sixth or seventh grades. Why is that?

Some argue that, if you don't have the right connections, it is tough to work your way onto a youth AAU volleyball team.

Riverton doesn't have enough boys for an under-10 spring competitive soccer team, so the kids who are interested go to Lander. Ironically, our school district's elementary enrollment numbers have been increasing steadily for years.

Many say that parents are not involved enough.

Is it just money, or are there other barriers?

We've watched the equivalent of our varsity baseball team, the American Legion Raiders, decay into a struggling program.

Some Riverton varsity coaches try to reach down to elementary and middle school athletic programs, but for others, the vertical integration of communication and program development lacks.

Have we asked ourselves whether our current system is the best?

"We have to open ourselves to change so we can move from where we are, to where the level of excellence is we want to achieve," one Jamestown committee member said.

What is wrong with that?

Perfection may be unattainable. Improvement is sustainable.

Have a great sports week. Go Big Red!

Note: Special thanks to Ben Rodgers of the Jamestown Sun; Bob Toso, superintendent of Jamestown Public Schools, and Dustin Jensen of Jamestown College.

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