2017-11-16 / Views

Co-ops inspire competition

Basketball season is right around the corner and, for the first time in years, the number of varsity girls and boys teams in Leelanau will dip into the single digits. The new North Bay program, which welcomes girls from Northport and Suttons Bay, takes our total from 10 to nine.

In districts with declining enrollment, pushback on co-op programs is understandable. We get it. It’s tough to see longstanding rivalries, traditions and identities fall by the wayside.

That said, the key word in last week’s front-page story about co-ops was “opportunity” — and as Suttons Bay AD Doug Periard pointed out, it’s not just about the opportunity to play.

It’s the opportunity to compete.

In prep sports, coaches should never have to give starting positions away. That’s not how life works. At some of our smaller schools, however, kids know the rotation well before the season starts. In those situations, the will to compete better be strong.

Sure, some student-athletes will spend an extra hour in the gym perfecting their free throw — but what’s to stop another guaranteed starter from going through the motions?

Position battles before, during and after the season make players and programs better, and better programs tend to attract more players. Unfortunately, the cycle works both ways: A lack of healthy competition can lead to entitled players and losing seasons.

Win or lose, prep sports ought to teach our student-athletes about hard work, improvement and competition.

Co-op programs help make that possible.

An added benefit is that the incoming competition from other districts helps our athletes work with less familiar people and, in some cases, make new friends.

“I had a preconceived notion of what it would be like to be on a team with Glen Lake kids,” said Jessica Pershinske, a standout skier from Leland who competes in the Glen Lake co-op program. “It definitely helped me be more open-minded, and things change when you’re on the same team. Now they’re the ones supporting you and helping you through everything.”

Co-ops are good for Leelanau prep sports.

— by Jay Bushen

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