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No kidding, an old guy can learn

By Staff | Aug 13, 2010

You may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but an old guy like me can learn a thing or two from time to time.

I don’t know about you, but it seems my periods of enlightenment often are unexpected — both in lesson and teacher.

In a week or so, opening practice begins for fall high school sports.

That got me to thinking of past sports seasons and athletes that have touched my spirit.

More than 10 years ago my daughter, Andrea, and son, Lee, taught me something I haven’t forgotten.

Throughout high school both participated in athletics. And, they were pretty good in their respective sports.

I’m not saying all their performances were outstanding, there were some disappointments along the way.

No matter how tough things got, however, Andrea and Lee refused to quit or give up on themselves.

That reminds me of a Blue Earth Area wrestling program mantra — NGU.

As the parents of a wrestler, I remember the first time my wife and I saw those three letters on a T-shirt my son was wearing.

We had no idea, like the other parents, that NGU stood for — Never Give Up.

Last year, I witnessed the power of persistence and was reminded of the personal satisfaction gained from believing in yourself.

Whoever said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing,” –had it wrong.

Former Buc wrestlers Taylor Andrews and Cody Eckhardt proved that.

Neither won a state title or a medal. In fact, Eckhardt is the only one to qualify for the state meet — as a senior and he was eliminated from the tournament after losing his first-round match.

Eckhardt finished his high school wrestling days with a 77-76 record, while Andrews was 68-74. A late-season injury cost Andrews some matches and kept him from having more wins than losses.

Not too impressive you say?

Unless, you take a closer look at their respective careers. Then, maybe, you’d have a better appreciation of what they accomplished.

After their sophomore seasons, Eckhardt had compiled 24 wins and 50 losses, while Andrews was 20-50.

Wrestling back-to-back in the lineup, opposing coaches had to like their team’s chances of picking up two wins.

How did Eckhardt and Andrews turn things around, going from losing to winning?

Determination, determination and hard work. Hours and hours of training and conditioning.

More importantly, they never gave up.

In May, my youngest daughter, Ashley, graduated from St. Mary’s University in Winona.

During her four years she also was a member of the cross country and track teams.

My 1989 Honda Accord — which has more than 260,000 miles — and I traveled thousands of miles across Minnesota and Wisconsin to watch Ashley compete. My wife also went to many meets when she wasn’t working.

Quite a few times Ashley didn’t do as well as expected and there was real disappointment.

Ashley’s coaches would tell me my daughter was an extremely hard worker in practice. But, the “meet day” results didn’t show it.

Many times it was hard leaving Ashley after a meet because I knew how bad she felt.

I’d offer some dumb words of encouragement, give her what every college kid needs, money — and then a goodbye hug.

Ashley always thanked me for coming to watch her.

There was a lot of thinking on my drives back home and even prayers requesting divine intervention.

I know that might sound silly, but parents who have children in sports understand.

In one of the final races of her college career, Ashley and three other teammates set a new school record in the 4 x 800-meter relay during the MIAC conference meet at St. Mary’s.

When the result was announced over the public address system, I was lost for words. Anyone who knows me can attest that doesn’t happen very often, perhaps never.

Thank God, Ashley refused to quit.

I never thanked Cody, Taylor or Ashley for being persistent.

They taught me that believing is what gets you there, to your goal.

Also — remember, kids can teach you something … if you only pay attention.