The athlete’s role in rebuilding

Published 12:05 am Tuesday, June 29, 2010

“I’m too old for a rebuilding year,” my 87-year-old grandpa tells me occasionally, referring to the Timberwolves. “I don’t have enough time.”

With all due respect, he doesn’t have enough time unless, of course, he becomes a centenarian, but even then I don’t foresee 13 and 14 year veterans Jonny Flynn and Wesley Johnson leading the Wolves to an NBA title. He can’t practice patience, but I don’t blame him.

As fans, we can scorn the Kahns’ and McHale’s of the sporting world because their paid millions of dollars to win, but what about the coach in Albert Lea?

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I didn’t pass through Albert Lea athletic programs with a blind eye and deaf ears and I’m not an eternal optimist. I know we’ve struggled in many programs and in some, we probably will next year, too.

That goes for myself as well. In high school, I was never part of a team that didn’t struggle to break .500, and we always finished in the middle of the Big Nine.

When we do find success in sports besides wrestling it can be surprising to some.

I read a column, at the start of the baseball season, in the Owatonna People’s Press written by Sports Editor Derek Sullivan.

He wrote , referring to asking various Owatonna head coaches who will challenge the Huskies for a Big Nine title, “I’m always surprised when I hear a different school, and I’m really, really surprised when I hear the words Albert Lea. Since I have been here, the Tigers have only dominated in wrestling…”

He went on to say that it was not just baseball, but since 2005 “Albert Lea has finished near the bottom of the Big Nine standings in male sports such as football, cross country, track and field and basketball (I just missed the Ben Woodside era).”

Sullivan went on to write a very positive column about Tiger baseball, saying, about this past year’s team, that “These aren’t your father’s Albert Lea Tigers.”

This seems like a common notion outside of Albert Lea. Many our programs have been in rebuilding stages for years; boys’ golf and baseball broke through this year and wrestling seems to always be in a reloading stage.

So who’s the pressure on to turn the tide and start winning consistently in Albert Lea? It’s the coaches responsibility to give the team the best chance to win but they need athletes to do so.

In past few years, the number of Albert Lea students going out for athletics has dwindled, but I’m beginning to see a change.

More youth are playing baseball now than ever in the past 15 years and both the girls’ and boys’ basketball teams have talent working its way towards varsity.

As numbers are on the rise, talent is too and I’m excited to cover teams that I think will always be in conference contention year-to-year. Owatonna better get start getting used to it.