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Athletics program rebuilding at Wadena-Deer Creek school

When you start a new job, I don't think you ever know exactly what you are getting into. When I was hired to be the Wadena-Deer Creek activities director this past spring, I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting into. Of course, that was before our little corner of the world changed June 17.

My wife Mandy and I, along with our two daughters, Grace and Madelyn, spent the afternoon of our 10th anniversary huddled in the basement on the edge of southwest Wadena. We lost shingles and my pickup topper was wrapped around my back garage. When I look at the devastation all over town, we were just amazingly lucky.

Once I realized what happened and got my bearings, I went with the school's head groundsman, Mike Kenney, to the high school to try to get his equipment out to help clear things out so emergency vehicles could get where they needed to. When I got to the high school, I started to realize that my job as activities director would be a far different experience than I had originally bargained for.

As a coach, one of the things I always stress to my wrestlers and football players is that it doesn't do any good to worry about things that you don't have any control over. Obviously no one has any control over what happened on June 17, but we do have control over how we react to it. Watching the reaction to the tornado by the communities of Wadena, Deer Creek and Bluffton as well as the thousands of volunteers who came to help us has been simply amazing. People rolled up their sleeves and went to work. We started picking up the pieces and going on almost immediately after the storm.

So, what are we going to do about sports? That has been the question wherever I have gone.

The first thing I want to do is assure everyone that we have been working very hard and I can say with confidence that when practices begin on Aug. 16, Wadena-Deer Creek will be offering the exact same things we have always offered.

The biggest obstacle thus far for most of our programs has been locker room space. This is a problem that has been solved. We currently have plumbers working to get the locker rooms both at the Wadena Elementary site and the Deer Creek school ready to use. Our custodians and cleaners have been working extraordinarily hard to get the sites ready. They deserve a lot of credit and admiration through this whole process.

We are very fortunate to have very nice facilities that were not damaged here at WDC. Our elementary gym is large enough and has been well enough maintained to host varsity athletics. Our Deer Creek facility will be a good facility for our sports as well. The key will be flexibility and adaptability by players, coaches, and parents. We will need to keep the same attitude as our community has shown throughout this disaster. The "can do" spirit will make whatever obstacles that may present themselves surmountable.

Our plan right now is to utilize the Deer Creek facility for some of our junior high volleyball and possibly junior high football in the fall. The 9-12 volleyball teams will utilize the auditorium gymnasium and main gym in the elementary school. Cross country and 9-12 football will proceed as usual, except that they will use locker room facilities in the elementary school. We have contractors lined up to fix the tennis courts so they should be ready by that first practice date.

Winter sports have been a little more of a challenge as the community center was destroyed. The Community Center Board and the Hockey Association are working very hard right now in planning what will happen with that facility. We are working on planning for our boys and girls hockey programs. I have been in contact with Long Prairie on the girls' side and we have plans in place for girls' hockey.

They, and many other surrounding schools, will help us out if we need ice time for boys' hockey as well.

The good news is that we will have Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverine and WDC-LPGE Blue Devil Hockey this winter.

Basketball teams will practice using the auditorium and main gymnasiums at the elementary schools on a rotating bases; basically the same as the set up they have always used at the high school. The wrestling program needs the least amount of space to run the 7-12 program and will use the Deer Creek facilities for practice. Dance line has lined up facilities in conjunction with the community center for practice space this winter. The main elementary gymnasium will be the home to our Wolverine athletics.

As far as spring sports go, work has already been started to fix fencing and dugouts for both the baseball and softball fields. The track also has some repair that needs to be done and contractors are

being lined up to address those issues.

Our coaches have put in much hard work thus far. They have shown a great sense of teamwork and understanding throughout this process. Their help has been incredibly valuable to this process. They want our kids to continue to have great experiences in high school activities and the leadership and attitude that they have shown will ensure that that will happen.

I believe that greatness in defined by how you deal with adversity. From what I've seen from our community, our leadership (both at the community and school level), and our kids, we will be great. While no one asked for this to happen to us, I believe we will be better and stronger as a result. I know our coaches and I will do our absolute best to make our kids' experiences the best that they can be while we go through the rebuilding process. Our kids will continue to make our community proud.