Permit me to begin with a definition. According to the Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, an athlete is a person trained or skilled in exercises (a maneuver, operation, or drill carried out for training or discipline), sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina. In one way or another, it is always performed or practiced in order to develop, improve, or display a specific power or skill.
I make note of the aforementioned because Kenyon-Wanamingo Public Schools is about to recognize the 2019 Athletic Hall of Fame inductees. Selected for the most part by a nomination committee made up of current and former educators whose background includes some form of sports, the categories listed are: athletes, coaches, administrators/athletic directors, boosters/supporters, and team. Sadly, a close look at the criteria leaves one with the impression that the prerequisite for induction is driven by baseballs, basketballs, footballs, volleyballs, track and field, and pins. Let us take a look at what the “wall” tells us.
In the fall of 2015, 10 individuals were inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame. Composed of seven athletes, two coaches/athletic directors, and one booster/supporter, it marked the beginning of what has now become an annual event. Subsequently, the next three years would show an increase of nineteen athletes, four coaches/athletic directors, and one booster/supporter. A review of the names would indicate that none of the inductees were added due to their excellence in arts education.
As I reflect on my many years in education, one of the things that I always enjoyed, as an evaluator of teachers and programs, was the opportunity it afforded me to take a close look at the building’s classrooms. While this is not meant to imply that new carpets and freshly painted walls were a sign that good things were happening for students, I found that murals, pictures, plaques, and significant quotations had a way of conveying what the teachers were trying to say. In the end, it had a way of telling the “world” what was important to them.
During the course of the past two years I had the privilege to spend some quality time with the late Davis Strandemo. As the member of a family that was renowned for its excellence in academics and athletics, this kind and gentle man had no pretenses when it came to his own abilities. As a matter of fact, our conversations oftentimes reminded me of the students who walk down the hallway with their shoulders rubbing the wall lockers and their eyes glued to the floor. These young people have so much to offer, and yet, they are lost in a world that fails to recognize their many talents. Sadly, it is one of education’s greatest failures.
So what is the point? In truth, I am trying to draw attention to the fact that there are scores of Kenyon and Wanamingo students whose talents will go unrecognized under the current Athletic Hall of Fame selection process. For instance, you would not find the late Davis Strandemo’s name on a football team roster but you would find him leading the band as its drum major. You would not find his name on a basketball team roster but you would find him on the sidelines directing the crowd and cheering the team as a varsity cheerleader. You would not find him on a baseball team roster but you would see him at the local swimming pool diving, swimming, and showing others to do the same. And less I forget, you could find him at the end of the school day in the band room practicing one of the wind instruments. You see, by the time he graduated from high school he could not only play all but one of them, but he could play the organ, he sang in the choir, and he would go on to receive one of the most prestigious awards that KHS could offer a senior in 1967: The John Philip Sousa Award. As the record clearly shows, he was not only a pathfinder, but by definition, he was an athlete as well.
In the coming weeks and months (applications are due April 1, 2020) the nomination committee will begin a process leading to the 2020 Athletic Hall of Fame inductees. Although I can appreciate the fact that this may not be an easy task, I would like to suggest that they find a way to reach out to those men and women who distinguished themselves in ways that one might not normally associate with the current “wall.”
While my nomination is going to be Davis Strandemo, let me assure you that there are many others that had similar gifts that have yet to be recognized. You need to find them!