Guest Posts on County 10 are provided by contributors and the opinions, thoughts, and comments within are their own and may not necessarily reflect those of County 10.
Napoleon is given credit for this succinct statement, but it rings true two centuries after the little corporal fell in his quest to conquer the world.
“Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.”
Wise words from the Corsican general.
I’ve used this quote for many decades, but in the age of social media, it has taken on new connotations.
The stories I write for County 10 can be counted with page clicks and other metrics that measure the amount of time people spend on a story. It’s a great way for advertisers to see how many people read a story or visit a website and they can be charged accordingly.
The stories are also put on Facebook, that way people can share, comment, or simply click like if they enjoyed the story, or found it interesting, or add the dual function laughing emoji that can be either disapproval or jocularity.
I noticed a big difference between the interaction people share with a winning team, and the complete lack of comment or even the slightest notice of a team that is struggling.
Not to pick on the Shoshoni Wranglers, but they are the team I’m perhaps most familiar with since I taught and coached at Shoshoni for 15 years midway through my career and know most of the players and their families. There is a difference in the response to game stories this year and to those from just a few years ago.
When the Wranglers were contenders, winning it all or playing in the state championship game the likes on Facebook posts of my County 10 coverage numbered in the hundreds, and there were dozens of positive comments.
With the Wranglers 0-3 to open the season, there is barely any notice of their progress this far.
As I said earlier, I’m not picking on Shoshoni, it’s a reaction I find with Riverton, Lander, Wind River, and Wyoming Indian just as often.
With Dubois, it’s not much different in a good year than in an off year. The Rams and their fans just seem to enjoy the coverage. When you’re as isolated a community as Dubois is, nestled in God’s little corner of the High Country, any notoriety is unique.
The truth is that coaches work much harder in challenging years than they do when they have abundant talent.
I’ve had the privilege of coaching several perfect seasons. From 1999 to 2002 as part of the Riverton Middle School football staff with Tom Zingarelli, Cory Clemetson, Todd Wright, Mark Perkins, and Tyler Jordan we won 27 straight games, sandwiching two perfect seasons with win streaks at the end of the ‘99 year and a 5-0 start in 2002.
We weren’t covered on social media at that level, and that era, but the accolades from parents and fans were continuous. Yes, we worked with the boys, but we were blessed with abundant talent and didn’t have to delve deep into our collective coaching skillset to get the smallest improvement.
That wasn’t true in the 1992-93 basketball season in Shoshoni.
During our state championship run in 1987-88, my late assistant coach Harold Bailey and I had constant comments on how to improve the team, a team that was talented, but undisciplined, but a team that peaked at the right time and won it all.
In the 92-93 stanza, we had a varsity that was really a junior varsity in disguise. With just one senior, a couple of juniors who had no varsity experience prior to that year, and a bevy of freshmen and sophomores. We played in a league with very good teams from Lovell, Rocky, Wyoming Indian, and Riverside.
We lost all 18 games that season, but the boys improved incredibly. Not enough for the handful of cowardly parents who bombarded me with anonymous letters and restricted phone calls in the middle of the night, but the evidence was there in how we played Riverside that season.
The Rebels beat us by 43 points the first time we played them at home, then by 27 in Basin a few weeks later. In the opening round of the Regional Tournament in Riverton, we led them for almost the entire game before my starters began to foul out and lost by nine points.
Not a single naysayer noticed that, including the administration who actively distanced themselves from the program as the season progressed.
No matter, I know the work that went into getting those kids to play better, and so do they.
The truth is that I coached much harder, and more intently that season than I did in winning the state football championship at Lusk back in 1981, the state basketball title in ’88, or that 27-game win streak at the beginning of the millennium.
Work is work, and it always pays off in the end.
Coaches are by nature a thick-skinned lot and laugh sarcastically at snowplow parents and gutless administrators.
At the end of the day, the head coach is responsible for the decisions that make or break the team. Influence peddlers are like social influencers, a collectively petty and useless lot.
But kids are different. They only have a few fleeting moments in the athletic sun and a lack of support for their efforts is palpable and often painful.
Praise them when they’re playing well, and positively criticize their efforts if you have something viable to help them with, but don’t ignore them.
Praise goes a long way in getting a kid to improve. Sometimes you have to figuratively kick them in the pants, and other times they need a pat on the back. Knowing when to do both is one of the greatest attributes a coach can have and is one of the few areas where fans can help a program.
Win or lose, these kids represent your community, your school, and the heritage of the area they live in. Ignoring them to save some concept of yourself is the height of narcissistic behavior.
It’s not about you as a fan to become part of the team. You are an observer, a welcome observer, but an observer nonetheless and never a part of the team.
Support, comment positively, and help these young adults, but don’t turn a cold shoulder just because they’re not winning at a level you’ve arbitrarily set.
Living vicariously through the efforts of a teenager shouldn’t be a common practice.