HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
February 26, 2007

HT and LP pairing a good thing

By Aaron Schultz

Since talks became public back in October concerning the possible pairing of Holy Trinity of Winsted and Lester Prairie in all sports, I have been very quiet on the mater.

In fact, if you want to look back, I never wrote a single item, or referred to it in any way – for or against.

Why, as the sports editor covering both schools, would I be so quiet on such a big topic?

Well, I am kind of a servant to two masters on this matter, and for that reason, felt it was best to stay out of it in the paper.

For those who don’t know, besides being the sports editor at the Herald Journal, I am also the head baseball coach at Lester Prairie, and the junior high football coach for what was the already existing Lester Prairie and Holy Trinity junior high pairing.

As a head coach, I was involved in meetings at the school with other head coaches, and administration, talking about what our preferences were.

Being involved in these meetings, I felt it was best not to write about the subject until a decision was made, one way or another.

Now that a decision has been made, I feel it is appropriate for me to talk about where I stand on the whole pairing, both as a coach and someone who wants both athletic programs to succeed.

From the start I was in favor of the pairing of the two schools in all sports for the simple reason that I believe it would give kids at both schools the best opportunities.

While not all sports were hurting for athletes at both schools, there were a few that definitely were.

Taking Holy Trinity girls’ basketball as an example, they were unable to have a junior varsity team this year due to lack of numbers.

I also believed it would be best for the sport I am most directly involved in – baseball.

This year we have a huge group of seniors who will give us the highest number of athletes out since I started coaching back in 2001.

Back in 2001, as the junior varsity coach, we needed to bring up eighth graders to play JV in order to have enough numbers.

That has been the rule, and not the exception over these past six years that I have been coaching.

In fact, there was a year where I had to bring up seventh graders to play junior varsity due to our lack of numbers.

While I did it out of necessity, I would have really preferred not to do so, as I don’t believe it was fair to the kids.

This doesn’t mean that I am against moving eight graders up to junior varsity when it is appropriate, but I don’t like having to do it.

I would rather move kids up based on skill level rather than participation levels.

One question I have heard asked by several people is will the pairing automatically solve all of the number problems?

The easy answer to that is no, but it should definitely make things easier. How much easier? Well, only time will tell on that one.

But, one example from last year that I would like to share with all of you gets to the heart of the problem we were having, at least in baseball at Lester Prairie.

There were varsity, junior varsity, and junior high games all scheduled on the same day.

When this happened, I let all of the junior high kids play junior high, as they should.

By doing that, it really put us in a tough spot on junior varsity, which had to play with just nine players, while on varsity we went with just 11.

Sure, we made it work, but it puts us coaches in a tough spot when you have to play everybody.

While the groups of kids that have gone through the baseball program over the years while I have been there have been great, there still kids.

With that said, from time to time a kid may be late for a practice, or not go all out in a game, and in those situations it would be nice to be able to sit a kid the next game, or take him out when he doesn’t hustle.

The reality over the past several years is that couldn’t happen.

Now, some people may come back at me and say that some kids will now not get as much of a chance to participate with more out for a sport.

My answer to that is, work for it.

The current group of seniors I have out for baseball all have worked hard in practice and in games over the years, but that is not always the case.

When you are struggling to get kids out to fill out teams, you don’t have a leg to stand on when you threaten to take away playing time if they don’t get to work.

Especially when by doing so you have to forfeit, or cancel a game.

A few years back when I was coaching junior varsity, we had one occasion when we had to cancel a junior varsity game because we didn’t have enough kids to play junior varsity and varsity on the same day.

That absolutely never should happen, and hopefully with the new pairing never will again.

Yep, I really believe that, like it has worked in junior high, this pairing is going to be a good thing for both schools.