Last week the StarTribune published a three-part series on youth and high school sports booster clubs.
Each piece tackled a different angle on the reason why so many state championships are going to so few schools because of the growing separation between communities and programs, how wealthy donors impact private school programs and how donors make an impact on youth sports organizations.
Reasons for the growing separation range from lack of funds at all levels of a program to simply a lack of interest, or the number of kids and families interested in participating.
But it’s a lot more complicated than two or three main points, so I’m not going to say this is wrong or this is right.
I think the differences between the Eden Prairie football team and the Anoka football team come mostly from the number of players coming out and to a certain degree the financial side, as was stated in the first piece of the StarTribune series.
Of course, differences between the two programs can be seen on multiple levels, but at the end of the day it comes down to who wins and loses.
Eden Prairie has grown into a powerhouse winning eight state titles since 1996, while Anoka has two (1990 and 1994).
Soon to be three football seasons ago, Anoka marched through the competition only to fall to Eden Prairie in the first round of the state tournament.
The number of players on Eden Prairie’s sideline vastly out numbered that of Anoka but it still had a chance to win the game, which is why the game is played, right?
Is winning the game the focus or is it to simply have a good time and learn some outstanding lessons about life?
Of course, the ultimate goal would be to win and learn lessons about life along the way.
And for some, perhaps that is a reality. When I read the first story of the series, my initial thought was perhaps a bit callous – so what?
Why does it matter who has the more stylish uniforms, brand new gym and top-of-the-line equipment?
Perhaps all of that stuff might translate into a few more wins and ultimately catch the eye of a college recruiter for that coveted college scholarship.
As coaches, it might be tougher to coach-up a team with hand-me-downs or well-worn balls, but can’t it also be a motivational tool to get that extra effort from each kid, knowing they have less to work with but despite that will work even harder to win on the court, field or track?
In the years I’ve covered this area, Anoka football has always had one of the strongest followings, second only to perhaps the Tornadoes wrestling team, even though many of the families compete in both.
Each community has its loudest supporters like the Coon Rapids wrestling program, led by coach Bob Adams, the Coon Rapids Little League program, Andover volleyball or Blaine football or hockey to name just a few.
I see the pride in the stands at Goodrich Field in Anoka and in the fieldhouse just steps away from what has to be one of the top wrestling rooms in the state, complete with photos dating back to the 1940s.
I know both of these programs run circles around many communities not only on the field but in the established and storied history.
That history might not translate into money, but I know the pride it gives the 14- to-18-year-olds to wear the maroon and white with pride and for me that’s something that can’t be purchased at Sports Authority or Dick’s.
Jason Olson is at firstname.lastname@example.org