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Numbers low in nearly all Culver, Madras programs

How I See It, By Joe McHaney
Too many Culver and Madras high school coaches were left scratching their heads this past week, wondering why students were not showing up for daily doubles.
   Having visited nearly every single team since Aug. 20, the overall theme echoed to me by area coaches was that numbers were down, and coaches were frustrated.
   Cross country was the hardest hit programs. In Culver, only one runner showed up, while in Madras, just six athletes turned out for the first week of practices.
   Alarming to say the least, although cross country does not appear to be a very popular sport at the two schools over the past four or five years. Both cross country coaches did indicate that they normally gain a handful more once school starts, but both were clearly surprised by the lack of participation numbers.
   Numbers were also lower than expected in football. In Culver, 26 have shown up to play, down from 32 at the start of last season. In Madras, coach Rick Wells was hopeful for 80 plus based on preseason conversations with students. Last week, 65 students arrived to play, down from 75 last season.
   Bobby DeRoest is searching for female water polo participants to field a team, and Mike Osborne has just 17 kids on the MHS girls soccer roster, which is well below last year's 28 participants.
   Volleyball held its own last week, as CHS head coach Randi Viggiano and MHS coach Jamie Smith indicated a strong turnout.
   Sure, this time of year is tough for high school kids to dedicate to sports, especially with many of them working and some still wanting to enjoy their last summer days, but I don't remember this being a problem in the glory days in the late 1990s when I was in high school. We never had number problems at Class 1A Condon High School, and I remember vividly watching more than six runners take off for cross country runs daily.
   What's the problem you might ask? It's pretty simple, as it's a generation thing. Kids are different these days because there are so many more things to do than high school sports.
   One can easily point to video games. Nintendo was not enough to keep my generation from participating in high school athletics, but with so many gaming options now, many kids are swallowed up. It's not just the electronic wonderlands that are keeping kids from high school athletics, but its more options like skate parks and non traditional sports easily within reach that are holding kids from the high school athletic scene.
   Athletics can also be costly with fees to play, equipment costs and travel costs. With a down economy, some parents are unable to cover costs associated with playing sports.
   Some believe kids get burned out with year-long participation in sports. With club ball, summer ball, team camps and more, there's little time to escape the rigors of playing competitive sports. In the late 1990s, I don't recall as many camps or summer ball opportunities like there is today.
   Bottom line is kids are not showing up like they should be and I think it's because our society has become lazy. It's easy to sit idle and come up with excuses of why one shouldn't play. You hear things like," I'm focusing on one sport" or "I have to work." Whatever the excuse, it's normally just that -- an excuse.
   It's sad to see the girls soccer program at Class 4A Madras High School draw just 17 kids to the field. I understand that the program has struggled to win games in recent years, but parents need to be aware that Osborne has so much to offer those girls that play. Yes, we all want to win, as that's one of the main goals of athletics, but if the team doesn't win a single game this year, I'll guarantee those girls walk away having learned a thing or two about dedication.
   I feel sorry for the kids that could be playing football, and choose not to do so. The game is so special because it's not just about football, it's about selling out for the guy next to you. It's about working as a unit, as a team. For many of us that played, football memories stand out.
   I'm thankful to my friends, who talked me into playing football. As a sophomore, I was going to be a professional baseball player, and playing football was an injury waiting to happen. But, my buddies convinced me to play football, and I don't have any regrets. In fact, I recall more football games, than I do baseball games.
   Several programs will begin nonconference action this weekend, but it's not too late for a high school student to get involved in many of the programs. I would highly recommend that if your child is even remotely thinking of turning out for a sport, that you give them a little extra to get him/her out there.
   For you kids who are not participating, don't let fear of failing keep you from playing, challenge yourself and find the courage to participate.