Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Facilities

Coaching scholastic sports allows for many opportunities to travel, albeit only regionally, and to see and compare other school campuses and athletic facilities. In my brief career I have taken teams north to Montabella and Traverse City, northeast to Swartz Creek and Perry and Flint, west to Holland and the spectacular trio of Grand Haven and Grandville and Rockford, southwest to Battle Creek, south to Hillsdale, and east to the eye-popping high school in Hartland. Even locally here in mid-Michigan, we find gorgeous new schools in Okemos and Holt that both meet the educational and extra-curricular needs of the students, and appeal to the tax-paying public, giving the community a sense of pride. The themes for the districts that seem to be doing it correctly, wherever one travels, revolve around starting from scratch, constructing a completely new building, and the schools successful in extra-curricular activities have practice areas devoted to those activities.

Beyond the easy appeal of having a beautiful school and campus are the benefits to the athletes of having practice facilities dedicated to one's sport. Unlike my experiences last year at a different and far smaller school, having practice this year at a school with a room dedicated to wrestling makes administering practices much simpler, demonstrates the support that the athletic administration has for the sport, and allows the coaching staff and athletes alike to use our time far more efficiently. Last year, we were forced to move to a different building altogether -- an elementary cafeteria -- and the wrestlers and coaches worked together daily to set up and tear down the mats, which is not uncommon. Casual estimates on how much practice time was wasted each day performing these tasks are difficult, but I would guess it would be at least 30 minutes. With the schools that are attempting to provide maximum support to athletes, rooms dedicated to wrestling allow for a number of reasons for the wrestling team to flourish: enhanced, consistent, and year-round, practice access; a facility designed and used with safety in mind; and finally, some of the room enhancements that are important and sport-specific (mat handlers, takedown dummies, throwing dummies, exercise bikes and treadmills, heavy jumping ropes, etc.).

A facilities commentary would be incomplete without discussing another destination where we competed this year: the fieldhouse at Flint Beecher High School. Nowhere have I visited has been as decorated as Flint Beecher, with over thirty state championship banners hanging in the rafters of the fieldhouse, in sports like boys and girls basketball, boys and girls track, football and baseball. These championships span all eras, from generations past to the contemporary, and the community of Flint should rightly be proud of their accomplishments.