Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Are co-ops really equitable? ...

Posted 5/31/16 (Tue)

In recent years just about every school in North Dakota has formed a co-op with other schools in select sports and some academic arenas.

We wanted to find out if this is actually a good thing for the kids, or is it just a formality?

Co-oping with other schools gives kids in small towns the chance to play sports they wouldn’t otherwise have.

Gackle dropped its football program in 1975, Hazelton dropped its football program in 1976. Now, Gackle is in a co-op with Napoleon and Streeter and Hazelton is in a co-op with Linton.

Having gone to school in Hazelton, it was easy to see as a high school student that we didn’t have enough students to support a football team.

We saw it with our football rival, Gackle. The writing was on the wall.

Next came wrestling, then volleyball, then basketball.

So, are these co-ops designed to get kids from the attaching schools playing time, are they there to draw star athletes from the smaller schools to prolong a winner, are they there to give good athletes a chance to play and get good experience for college or are they there simply as a politically correct institution that could give a hoot about the co-oping schools?

So does Linton care about football players from Hazelton, Moffit or Braddock, does Bottineau care about hockey players from Melita, Deloraine or Westhope, does Walhalla care about Pembina or Cavalier, does Langdon care about Munich, or even more intriguing and perhaps less likely, does Valley City care about Griggs County Central (Cooperstown) and Barnes County North (Rogers)?

Closer to home, Kenmare co-ops with Bowbells and Burke Central in several sports, Kenmare, Bowbells and Glenburn co-op with Mohall Lansford Sherwood in baseball and Kenmare is its own entity in basketball.

When you look at some of these co-ops, you have to wonder about obscure psychological loyalty to the home town.

I can speak from experience that Gackle was our rival in football, Linton was our bitter rival in basketball and baseball and when Braddock had a school, the basketball rivalry was with Hazelton and sometimes Napoleon.

Fast forward a generation and some of us who were students in those turbulent years of denying co-ops, are now experienced coaches, with kids from rival communities on the team.

Are coaches in it to teach fundamentals of sport, or are they in it to play their favorites from the hometown because said coach and parents played together a generation ago?

It would be interesting to do some serious research into this because there’s any number of conclusions that can be drawn from the idea.

As a reporter, the first, and most obvious place to go with this would be the North Dakota High School Activities Association, but even if they knew what I’m suggesting here, they wouldn’t admit it as it might throw the entire state of North Dakota into some kind of sports anarchy.

If you talk to the kids, and we have from several of the co-oping schools, the attached kids often feel they are getting cheated out of playing time.

If you talk to the parents, they will give you their honest opinion “off record,” and unload their frustration, but “for the record,” it goes back to having the chance for Johnny or Suzy to play when they wouldn’t otherwise get the opportunity.

So what’s the magic here. Are we all right, or are we all wrong?

I have a good friend who is a superintendent in a public school in southeastern North Dakota. Unfortunately, he has to watch like a hawk, but his local kids, including his son, get to play for the larger school.

Once upon a time not so long ago, Grafton and Park River were bitter hockey rivals in Walsh County. Now they are hyphenated. So do the Grafton coaches see the Park River players as a bolster to the roster, or are they still bitter with the parents from the ‘70s and ‘80s.

It’s the same with Langdon and Munich. Rivals that saw players and parents getting into shouting matches in parking lots, are now together as the “Langdon Area.”

Because I played baseball, I still have that bitter, deep down rivalry with Linton.

I’ve made a lot of friends in Linton over the years, even worked there for a time, but when it comes to baseball, even though I’m now 57 years old, Linton is still brand X. Is it like this for the entire state?