This spring I’ve had the pleasure to be a journalist in a town with two WIAL championship teams: Riverside baseball and Ellwood softball. In fact, since 2001, these two schools have collected an impressive amount of combined titles* through their four varsity ball teams.
I’m not a sports fan to any extent. I’ve watched one professional sports game on television, but even I can’t be unaffected by the excitement of the season, and I hope to be writing articles for each team in the coming days.
The degree of success the teams have had is astounding. Riverside won shut outs in all four WPIAL playoff games, and seized the WPIAL with a single run in the bottom of the ninth. And Ellwood, yet undefeated, mercy ruled South Park in the championship.
Both teams have the attitude, talent, team spirit, dedication and coaching to make it this far, and that’s inspirational for the entire community. Success like that only comes through the right combination of hard work, team unity and good luck.
These athletes are learning what it’s like to succeed while developing team work skills and forming tight-knit bonds. They’re learning how to work on a long term project with step-by-step goals and learning valuable time-management skills.
This is what extra-curricular activities in high school are about. It’s not so that parents can live vicariously through their children’s success, even though that’s an unfortunate side affect. It’s so that our students gain memories and experience they’d never acquire from the academic curriculum. And this is why school districts continue to fund these programs.
11 years ago, I was on a WPIAL champion Cross Country team. Even though it was a minor sport, it still generated some excitement in the school. From what I remember, the tradition of having playoff athletes march through Lincoln’s halls began when the Cross County team started amassing titles.
It was a great feeling of triumph and something that sticks with you for your entire life, even if the sport later becomes irrelevant, as it does for many of us.
Congratulations and good luck in the first round of playoffs today!
*The playoff chart is courtesy of Corey Belonzi’s twitter, although it doesn’t include Ellwood baseball’s 2001 WPIAL championship.