Rural athletic programs help keep athletes from being left in the cold

Co-ops help students continue in athletic pursuits, encourage community-wide cohesion

DSC09495 (1).JPG
Nathan Kaufman, the senior out of New England competed in both track and field events, placing second in Javelin and came in eighth in the 400 meters at the Elk's invitational on Thursday, April 28.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

Well, it had to happen sometime.

I knew it was coming, I just didn’t know when … and it happened Saturday morning:

I got stuck in the snow.

It didn’t take 5 minutes, meanwhile, first-thing in the morning on a SATURDAY for me to see some of that “North Dakota Nice” behavior exhibit itself in the form of two nice young guys – driving jacked-up 4x4 pickups, by the way – to come by and start digging me out and subsequently towing me out backwards from the spot where my loaner-mini-van was stuck. Dudes had me outta there in less than 10 minutes … and they didn’t even give me their names; they were hustling down the road like a pair of truck-driving Samaritans on their way to help some other unfortunate soul (or some more hapless dunces like myself).

Last week, I wrote a pair of stories about the Dickinson and Trinity high-school-track programs, and I will be doing one on the Southwest North Dakota region, but my little mishap (or shadow-boxing bout with stupidity) got me to thinking about how absolutely necessary it is that locals provide “a little help, here” so often that it’s taken on the tone of a regional marker of sorts. Yes, “North Dakota Nice” is an attribute y’all should be proud of for so many good reasons.


But it’s also the teamwork involved with something as uncomplicated as removing some moronical Florida bonehead from the snow with a Ford F350 to the complications of running of an athletic program in a rural area like Bowman County, Beach, Killdeer, Heart River and – this is the meat of my point – the co-op communities of Hettinger/Scranton, Richardton-Taylor, Grant County/Flasher and Glen Ullin/Hebron (boy what I wouldn’t give for some keyboard hot-keys so I don’t have to spell those out every time, I will have to talk to the tech department).

But I digress …

If it takes the efforts of three people to unstuck a mini-van, you can see the demands placed on a community to organize and operate and populate a track team out in the country. So, they use teamwork that I never knew was necessary when I was running track & field at a school with a population twice the size of Glen Ullin. These co-ops ensure their athletes have an outlet for their passion in a variety of sports, it’s just that track & field participants already are in the gymnasiums dodging snowflakes and avoiding the outdoors (although I’m certain the long-distance runners already are running outdoors every chance they get because those people are crazy about running).

Regardless, it's fascinating that these communities can slough-off some of their identities and band together “for the children” to be able to compete in what is obviously the most-amazing sign of togetherness available in the world of prep athletics. These co-ops probably began out of convenience or necessity, but they’ve evolved an identity all their own that most locals don’t even notice (honestly, can you even HEAR “Glen Ullin” and not reflexively think “Hebron” at this point?).

And just like so many other things that take teamwork, these co-ops form bodies that save athletes from being left out in the cold and stranded with no place to perform and play. Just from the outside-looking-in, I gotta tell you it’s a pretty special thing to witness, and it's just a-NOTHER thing that makes it so wonderful living here.

Opinion by Gaylon Wm. Parker
Gaylon is a sportswriter from Jensen Beach, Fla., but has lived all over the world. Growing up with an athletic background gave him a love of sports that led to a journalism career in such places as Enid, Okla., Alamogordo, N.M., Pascagoula, Miss. and Viera, Fla. since 1998. His main passion is small-town community sports, particularly baseball and soccer.
What To Read Next
Get Local