Coach encourages players to appreciate high school sports atmosphere
It would seem there was once a time when school pride was a passion among a unified student body. But school pride is something that is thrown around much like a punch line these days in many high schools. Pep rallies and cheerleaders are often mocked for there enthusiastic ideals.
But the smaller towns seem more reluctant to adhere to this new cynical attitude. It is within these quarantined confines that a renaissance of sorts could take place. That's the hope anyway of Eudora head football coach Gregg Webb.
Webb has grown increasingly frustrated by the fading priorities of student athletes, more specifically with the motivations of athletic participation at the high school level.
"It just really bothers me sometimes that the kids don't play for the right reasons," Webb said. "They play for themselves and ask, 'What is it going to do for me?' instead of 'I play for Eudora, I want to help Eudora, I want to win for the town, for the community, for the past players and for the future players.'
"I mean, that's what it's all about. We've got to get that through somehow, because we lose some kids because of that."
Webb doesn't think the problem is unique to Eudora, though -- the region shares the struggle.
"It's something I think is lacking from this side of the state," Webb said. "There are some schools that have that deep pride. The teams that win take great pride in wearing the uniform and wearing the shirt that says where they're from.
"Baldwin's almost got that. They're very good athletically. They've kind of got that small-town feel."
But Eudora, although a small town, may suffer some from the blanket of suburbia. The growth of the town facilitates some of the problem as well. It can take a while for migrating families to become absorbed by civic pride.
"When you're in a school this size, I don't know exactly why we don't have that," Webb said. "There's some like the Durkins of the town and the Clevelands, they understand Eudora, they're from Eudora, and they like Eudora.
"But in some cases the kids just don't play for the right reasons, and that has to change around here.
"We're small enough that kids ought to be playing every sport for the town."
The multi-sport athlete is a vanishing breed, though.
"Kids just want to specialize in one sport," Webb said. "That's what we're coming to because the next level wants you to do that. They want you to play so much. And now there's the opportunity to play fall baseball, summer basketball, summer track, you name it.
"There are just so many opportunities that your college coach can say you need to do if you want to be really good at this. But you're going to be good at it anyway. If you're going to be good, you're going to be good.
"I never lost a kid on an athletic scholarship because they didn't play 10 more summer league basketball games."
Burnout can also be a concern with year-round dedication to one sport.
"The kids compete so often, like summer volleyball," Webb said. "We've got kids that will travel to who knows where to play volleyball. I think they kind of lose the excitement a little bit by playing all the time."
Eudora sports icon Lauren Kracl, for example, was admittedly burned out on perhaps her best sport -- basketball. At the collegiate level she instead opted to pursue volleyball, a sport introduced to Kracl in her later years.
This provides another example of the virtues of playing multiple sports. Exposure can often reveal hidden talents or inspire more suitable pursuits.
Another problem Webb cites is a general ignorance toward the unique nature of the high school atmosphere.
"Kids don't understand how special the high school experience is," Webb said. "The high school kids ought to talk to the college kids and see if it's better or worse than high school. Ninety-nine percent of the time they'll say it never gets any better than high school. Ask Andrew Pyle or Dustin Moyer. The feeling they had on a Friday night, they'll never have that again."
The college experience can be profound, but clearly different.
"College is way different," Webb said. "It's not as different at a K-State game, but how many of us are playing D-I at a place like that? That is a tremendous environment, but not too many of us are playing in that environment.
"If you're going to the next level, you're playing because you love the game. It's not for the town or the school most of the time."