Memories remind us of who we once were.
After getting the mail the other day, I smiled, ran downstairs, and told my wife that my name was in my hometown newspaper in the "Fifty Years Ago" section.
She knew what was coming — a reading from my high school glory days. She gave me a "not interested" expression.
Maybe she’d heard the story before, but I didn't think so. It had been a while since I produced my high school scrapbook for her to review.
I read with enthusiasm the few sentences about an impressive basketball performance for the Sandstone Panthers on Feb. 5, 1971. It felt good to recall that at one time, I was a legend in my own mind.
This May will be 50 years since I’ve graduated from high school. Unfortunately, there will be no reunion this summer. Later this year, my grandson will receive his high school diploma. There are moments when I reflect on all this, that I am in a sea of emotions.
Forever a basketball guy, I tuned in to the nationally televised boys basketball game on ESPNU on Feb. 15, between the Stewartville Tigers and the Minnehaha Academy Redhawks. I couldn’t help but imagine what memories those young athletes will have years from now.
Memories of today will have a twist to them for the student-athletes, parents and community. I wanted to watch junior Eli Klavetter, a quality young man I have observed growing up in the church I attend. Eli and his team were playing the top-ranked 3A team in Minnesota.
Wondering about these memories with a twist, I received permission to ask Eli a few questions.
I inquired what this season has been like. Eli said, “It’s more normal than expected. There are fewer spectators, so the atmosphere has fewer distractions, but the pressure remains. The game hasn’t changed, just the environment.”
I asked him how he might look back on his season years from now. He answered, “I think I’ll be proud that we could play at a high level with all the adversity and uncertainty. It has required constant adjustments.”
Eli also talked about discipline and the need to be cautious so they can continue playing, yet also stay focused on academics. Eli’s brother Parker plays baseball and football, and his sister Kate is also playing basketball and volleyball at Stewartville. Kate provided input on the questions I asked Eli.
I also talked to Eli’s dad, Eric. He and his wife, Heather, hope the challenges this year help students find more ways to respect and assist others while growing their own problem-solving and resiliency skill set.
A parent feels a great deal of stress during high school activities. In basketball, Eric feels the experience has been stripped down to the game only. The community experience has been limited.
Regarding COVID, he told me, “It has challenged us to think of what is important and what to speak up about. I hope this perspective stays fresh as time passes.”
Eric feels more positives may reveal themselves, but the pandemic has improved our perspective, made us cherish our family and friends more, and bolstered our patience.
He told me young adults have social media challenges, COVID, political polarization, and social unrest. This has resulted in them growing up faster, and can add layers of stress. Activities are a welcome distraction.
I’m guessing years from now, Eli will have stories to tell. He may remember the mask he had to wear, but mostly, he will remember his teammates, the support of his family and his community, and that one evening playing a game of basketball on ESPNU.
Thank you to all who have worked so hard to give students these opportunities to perform or compete despite the challenges. These outlets are vital.
Loren Else lives in Rochester and also writes the Post Bulletin’s “Day in History” column. Send comments and column ideas to Loren at firstname.lastname@example.org.