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Coming up with enough athletes to compete

It is beginning to look like Wadena-Deer Creek will not have a boys' tennis team this spring.

A minimum of 10 players are needed to fill the four singles and three doubles spots. WDC Tennis Coach Pete Tranvik has had seven players at some of the practices and four at others.

The season opener with Long Prairie-Grey Eagle was scheduled for last Monday. That match was postponed until April 12.

The tennis ranks are not only thin ones at WDC this spring. Terry Olson does not have the track and field numbers he would like to see.

Participation in some fall and winter WDC sports was also low. The football team lacked bodies last fall and the wrestling and boys' hockey teams were short of athletes this past winter.

Lack of numbers is a problem for many outstate schools. The most successful ones generally have the athletes they need to win. A football coach likes to have a choice of players for his two 11-man units, a hockey team needs three lines, a wrestling team needs 14 wrestlers or they give up forfeit points. There are also injuries and illness problems.

Many high school athletes today specialize in one or two sports. WDC athletes are no exception. Oftentimes the better the athlete the more inclined they are to specialize.

A young man I knew from Fergus Falls was a three-sport athlete during the school year and played American Legion baseball in the summer. He was featured in a section of "Sports Illustrated" and went on to play baseball at Mankato State. I asked him once what his favorite sport was and he replied "whatever the season is, that is my favorite sport." That is the attitude that a lot of coaches wish athletes shared.

Some people may wonder why a school like WDC faces a shortage of players in some sports. Jobs, school, other interests all have a part to play here. There are also 18 varsity sports rosters to fill at WDC.

Spring sports participation in Minnesota only lasts 9-10 weeks for most athletes. Spring is also hectic time for student-athletes outside of sports - there are usually trips to take for in the spring for one reason or another.

Another factor is the success of a program. The main job of a school is to educate but where kids end up going to school often comes down to school's extracurricular offerings. An activities director once informed me that families moving to a new community often look hard at what the school's athletic department has to offer. Academics, a place to live, etc. are not their top concern. Throw in open enrollment and you have yourself a real beehive.