Fillmore Central volleyball: Thank you
Monday, November 18, 2013 3:34 AM
My preference toward the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers has been made obvious through this column before. You may have also noticed my bias toward the Fillmore Central Falcons, the high school from which I graduated in 2011. Like many others who cheer for these teams, I was very proud two weekends ago when the Golden Gopher football team beat Pennsylvania State and the Falcons volleyball team took second place at the state tournament. The pride I felt was complete and full. History was not on their side; yet, both teams succeeded in remarkable ways.
The marks of success easiest to understand are the numbers: records, sacks, kills, digs, wins and losses. The numbers tell part of the success story, but they don't tell all of it. They don't say anything about the bonds between team members, relationships with families and communities, joy and heartache, or lessons learned and relearned. The numbers can't reflect what is behind the statistics. They can't comprehend the humanity driving the success. The numbers stop being tabulated when the season ends, but the stories being written on and off the court continue.
As I've pondered the seasons of the Falcons and Golden Gophers, I've started to discover some truly beautiful, inspiring and purpose-filled storylines. These would be the stories ESPN, newspapers and television attempt to comprehensively relate to the public. For example, Golden Gopher coach Jerry Kill leaves the sidelines and the team rattles off four straight wins; the Falcons make it to the state tournament for the first time in school history.
The media attempts to capture all the factors involved in these stories and package them into neat articles and video clips. Usually, they get the gist of the full story, but they miss a lot. I understand this, because I have had to accept the frustrating fact that many times I cannot condense the essence of an entire story into one little article. Entire books or documentaries are much more comprehensive, but even they cannot fully grasp each influence, motivation and relationship playing into the progression of a story. Relationships between two people can be complicated enough to explain, so it would be nigh on impossible to cogently elucidate a story containing the influences of thousands of community members, teammates and family members.
Yet, I've been trying.
I've been trying to wrap my head around exactly what the Fillmore Central volleyball team did this season. I had been to several of their matches in the regular season and playoffs and left each one feeling lucky to have seen such prowess. After their loss in the championship match, I went home and found myself thinking about what I had experienced.
I have come to realize that what I witnessed was more than just volleyball. After all, sports are sports. The game is played and it ends. The immediate thrill of victory or the sting of defeat fades over time. What is left then? As I've come to find out recently, it is everything that matters.
What the girls experienced together I will never be able to capture for my own understanding. No matter how many interviews or pictures, I will only be able to dimly realize the full import of what they, themselves, experienced.
After all, I can't experience for myself the team chemistry they have been strengthening since middle school. I wasn't there when they first stepped on the court. I also won't be able to fully understand the experiences of their families and friends. Such people who have spent nearly every day with the girls have a truly precious insight that can't be fully understood through an interview. I can only understand from a community perspective, but based on what I experienced this season in that capacity, it is enough.
Why is it enough to just be a witness? That's a tough question to answer. I think it's because of what I've learned and the lessons I will continue to learn from this season. The members of the Falcons volleyball team had a mutual relationship with their fans. We gave them support. In return, they taught us. I learned about sportsmanship, confidence, perseverance, selflessness, compassion, love and many other lessons by their example on the court.
Anyone who didn't take away life lessons from those matches left having never witnessed the most important points. Those girls were excellent teachers. What is left after the match has ended? Everything that matters.
If any members of the team read this, I hope they realize what a debt of gratitude they've left us with. Thank you for your example. While you were chasing perfection on the court, the lessons you taught us made the individuals, families, and communities stronger, and indeed, more perfect.