Letter: Sentimental reflection on the loss of extra curricular activities

By on March 25, 2010

I write this with the given that education comes first.

I don’t get to the meetings out of fear I am not educated enough—because there are always two sides—and for anyone that knows me, knows I am not afraid to speak passionately about things I believe in. That being said, I will just write about what I do know. It is not about taxes, budgets or teachers’ salaries, but community.

On the Friday night while sitting at the final Regional Basketball game at KHS, you could not only see a sense of community, but you could hear it. As the final buzzer rang in my ears, I sensed sadness; not because our team played a good game and came up short, not because the seniors just finished another chapter in their lives, but a sense of loss in the community.

Taking away sports (or any extra-curricular) at the lower levels (seventh through 10th) no doubt will weaken our athletic programs over the next few years. In general, will KHS see a final “regional” game in a few years? If not, where will we—the community—go for a night out?

We come out not only to cheer on our team, but to socialize with our community. The very young to the senior citizens gather in one place and root for one team. This is true of musicals and games. It is an inexpensive “night out” for families like mine that don’t have kids in high school yet.

It is a place where we can practice some basic manners that seem to escape our younger generation: Don’t be rude, be aware of those around you, include everyone, respect your elders, and even help a mom who has a toddler that just lost something under the bleachers. It is a place for the kids at all the elementary schools to get a glimpse of each other and make some new friends. The game/performance is a place where the team parents sit together and maybe even make life-long friendships. It is a place where a retired school-bus driver or teacher can come back and be sure to see a familiar face.

This is a place to let my 13-year-old spread her wings with her friends on the other side of the gym, but under the watchful eye of me and some of my community. It is a place where I can sometimes visit with the man that taught me the love of the game at a summer camp.

Sports (and all extra-curriculars) allow the students a different type of learning that cannot be taught out of a book. Working together as a team teaches us life lessons. These lessons carry as far, or possibly further, in life than a+b=c.

There are many great teachers in my past, and I can even remember some of the names, but I can remember all of my coaches’ names (good or bad). Thinking of this reminds me of my freshman year at college where I was to play basketball, but had to make a painful decision to quit and work for financial reasons. I am best friends with my mom, but the night my roommate suited up for the first game, I walked to the end of the hall with a hand full of quarters and called my high school basketball coach and cried. I have called that coach many times over the years.

So thank you to those coaches who have taught us to compete together as a unit, to win or lose with grace, for teaching us to perform as one voice in competition or entertainment.

As I write this letter it is 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning, we are on the way to a volleyball tournament. The sun is rising as we pass the Harter Middle School and I wonder will Kaneland’s next great musician or athlete be walking in those halls come Monday morning? Will we ever know? Will a Bonnie Bray or Rick Schairer be able to mold them into today’s Dudzinski?

I smile and think back to last night at a pizza place in Batavia, where Dave and Robbie Dudzinski must have been having a brother’s night out. There was a father of a young boy that said, “Look son, there is Dave Dudzinski!” The boy smiled at his father, and they walked up and said “Hi” to Dave. I think the dad was as awestruck as the son.

Extra-curriculars are expensive, what they teach and the community they build is priceless.

Laurie Hannula