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Grateful for the Last Open Seats

posted Mar 21, 2019, 2:05 PM by Brenda Williams
Congratulations are in order for both the Patriot Girls' and Boys' Basketball programs as they represented our communities in the 7AA section tournaments.

Like many Pequot Lakes Patriot fans, the O’Neil’s family sedan has logged a fair amount of miles between Pequot Lakes and the North Shore in the last handful of weeks. On Wednesday, March 6th, after finishing our school day, we loaded up the family and made the trip over to Duluth. As fate would have it, the combination of a late departure from school, icy roads and gas station pit stops had us arriving to the game mid-way through the first half. With an outstanding fan presence, my wife and boys were left with one of the few remaining seats, which so happened to be immediately behind the Patriot bench. On the average day, court-level seats obscured by the scorer’s table would be less than desirable, but reflecting back, I’m grateful for our fashionably-late arrival to the game.

Sitting at courtside my boys were privy to the action up and down the floor, but more importantly, they had a front row seat to the dialogue on the bench. To many in attendance, the game was defined by a solid first half that eventually gave way to the opponent dominating the boards and tipping the scales in their direction in the second half. My experience on the UMD campus was entirely different (I would have to look up the box score to remember the final score, or who had the best individual performances.) That Wednesday night on the court reminded me of the real reason behind extra-curricular activities. Sitting in proximity to the bench, my boys were able to observe first hand some incredibly teachable moments that I am hoping will carry with them.

Two young sets of eyes were able to hear and see that despite momentum waning for the Patriots, the coaching staff lifted them up. During tense moments, the commentary remained positive. When heads were no longer held high, praise was abundant, even despite the story indicated on the scoreboard.

Two years ago a couple of our teacher/coaches gave me a copy of John Wooden’s autobiography “They Call Me Coach”. A takeaway for me was that the story is much bigger than basketball. I appreciated seeing our coaches embody that message to our student-athletes. I have been in enough gyms to know that not all programs are built around this concept. As a colleague, and as a father of two students in our district, I want you to know that your efforts do go noticed.

Thank you to Katrina, Bret and Chad, for being a strong courtside presence for our female athletes. Thank you for giving me some teachable moments that helped my wife and me to talk to our sons about passion, perseverance and teamwork. In addition, thank you to our female Patriot athletes for modeling positive cheering, hustle and determination. You may never know the magnitude of the impact you have on the kids in our community; how many little ones look up to you.

As our winter activities season wraps up, we should all take a moment and express gratitude to the men and women that work with our Pequot Lakes Patriots in the arena of extra-curricular activities. Though I highlighted my experiences as a fan in the section runs showcased by our Girls Basketball program, I want to acknowledge all of our club supervisors, coaches and facilitators that work with our students during the winter seasons. From Robotics to Road Crew Wrestling (and everything in between), thanks to all of you, for all you do.

Go Patriots!

-- Mike O'Neil, Middle School Principal