Archived Story

With fewer sports, fans aren’t diluted at smaller schools

Published 11:49pm Monday, November 8, 2010

Compared to Albert Lea High School, the gym at Lake Mills High School is cozy, closed at both ends with basketball hoops strapped to the ceiling right over the court.

During a regional quarterfinal volleyball match against the Forest City Indians the gym is packed, with barely enough room for fans to breathe.

Indians fans fill an entire side of the gym, donning red and white T-shirts, jerseys and headbands.

Lake Mills Bulldogs fans sit opposite where the entire student section is dressed as cowboys — playing up the classic children’s role playing game. They holler each time the Indians are set to serve.

On the court, the Indians win the first point and the gym erupts.

Volleyball is one of only three fall sports at these two schools — and since football finished in late October — it’s life.

I’m glad I went to school in Albert Lea and had the opportunity to play on one of the biggest stages in Minnesota prep sports — the Big Nine.

I was part of a fan base that followed Tigers teams to Xcel Energy Center to play in the state hockey and wrestling tournaments, and stood in awe of the thousands of fans that cheered the Tigers boys’ basketball team at the Target Center five years ago.

Lake Mills or any other small area school will never need 15 buses to transport fans to a state tournament, but the enthusiasm they have for even a regular season game on a Tuesday night is contagious.

These teams give the communities they represent something to rally behind, and anyone who happens to sit in on the atmosphere as well.