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Few great teams come home with a championship trophy

It's the great memories that will linger, even though the stats and scores fade with time.


I suppose I’ve been a little greedy. And though it’s human nature to want something you don’t have, I can’t help but feel a little guilty and ungrateful, given the circumstances.

   The Scappoose girls’ soccer team won a state title last week, and what an incredible story. After losing a host of seniors, including one of the best scoring talents the state has ever seen, the program also lost their head coach. They had just three seniors return, and nearly everyone counted them out of the title picture – except for the team themselves.

They struggled through a rough preseason, fighting to put it all together and learn a new system. The happiness from the win over Molalla was short lived, but after picking up their third loss in four games, the girls finally found their stride and won the remaining 14 matches, including the title over La Grande.

Following the presentation of the trophy, the Scappoose students rushed on to the field to celebrate with the team, holding the golden ball high above their heads. One fan hoisted a sign that read ‘believe.’

Belief in an ideal, adherence to a common goal – those are the thoughts and memories that have made this season so magical. The state title trophy serves only as a reminder, as a piece of hardware, signifying the incredible run.

But what is easily forgotten is that a great season rarely ends with a championship.

It can be difficult to watch a proud group of young athletes hang their heads after a loss, especially when it signals the finish of their season. All of the dreams and aspirations from the preseason have been put to rest with the sound of a whistle or blare of a horn, and as friends and relatives gather to console the teary-eyed players, it’s extremely easy to get caught up in the moment and focus on the loss.

All that accomplishes, though, is to do a disservice to the athletes we’ve supported throughout the season. Of the teams who make the playoffs, only one finishes their season with a championship. Just one, and that shouldn’t take anything away from those who don’t win a title. Regardless of the final score, regardless of the expectations placed on the team, they’ve made their communities proud.

They fought. They rose above and made it as far as they have, which puts them in an exclusive group of teams. Not everyone makes the championship tournament. Not everyone gets a second chance to host the first-round. Not everyone gets an open door to a fresh start. And many of those who are gifted with such chances don’t have the will or the talent to seize the opportunity.

I know it’s natural to be saddened after a loss. The tears on the faces of the Scappoose football team were captivatingly honest. They knew they had more to play for, and the season suddenly being over is a harsh reality to stomach all at once.

That’s why I listened intently to the words of head coach Sean McNabb as he addressed a shaken and silent group on the field. Losses are going to hurt, he said. This one might hurt for a while, but not forever. Eventually, you – and this applies to all of us – can look back at the season and see the positive memories. You can be happy and proud of the success, and hold the good things closely.

For St. Helens volleyball, it was the first conference championship in 24 years. It was the sweet, sweet 3-1 win over Sherwood. They’ll remember rebounding from a close loss to Wilsonville and fighting to finish 13-1 in league play. The five-set heart attack match against Mountain View will remain the highlight of many a volleyball career, and the memory of playing at Liberty in the state tournament will linger in spite of the loss.

For Scappoose football, they’ll fixate on the shocking win over Roosevelt. They might remember the shut out at Banks, but more for the turn-around and the run to finish the season ranked third in the state. Perhaps they’ll recall the pick-six by lineman Devin Ray in their playoff win over Elmira, but the real take away are the friendships and life lessons. Discipline and a will to succeed will aid them in everything they do. The comedy in the locker room and the jokes on the sidelines will last much longer than the number of touchdown passes in a single game or the final score in a mid-season win.

That’s why I feel a little guilty, and I apologize for that. A championship isn’t the end-all. Congratulations to the Scappoose girls’ soccer program on an incredible accomplishment, but the real victory in sports goes far deeper. Most high school athletes don’t get such a chance, and to gage success, we need to get used to a different measuring stick. A championship is amazing and playoffs are great, but congratulations are also in order when a group – a unit – of young men or women band together and give their all.