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Those old feelings emerge when watching a game well-played

Columnist Loren Else says watching some great volleyball play from my alma mater showed why competition matters.

Boomer Grandpa — Loren Else column sig
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There is crying in volleyball. There’s crying in every sport. As a competitor from years ago, I understand. When you are so close to a meaningful, hard-fought victory that may include a medal or a ring, and it eludes you, it’s tough.

When your athletic career ends at the high school or collegiate level, emotion can be hard to control. I imagine this is even more difficult for today’s athletes who may have played a particular sport, almost year around, since they’ve been a squirt.

I received a message a few days ago from the athletic director of Century College, my alma mater. He told me that Century’s women’s volleyball team was playing at the Rochester Regional Sports Center for third place in the National Junior College Athletic Association tournament.

I knew watching athletes compete at this level, in the prime of their college athletic career, would be fun, so I attended on a Saturday afternoon.

Let me put my attendance in perspective — I’m pretty sure that the parents of the athletes competing in the tournament probably were not even born when I attended and competed at Century College. My time at the college was 50 years ago.

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1972-73 Lakewood JC Basketball Team.JPG
At fifth from right, Loren Else is part of the 1972/73 Lakewood State Junior College (now called Century College) basketball team. Lakewood State lost to Normandale in the Minnesota Junior College state championship game 58-55. "We beat them twice during the season, so it was a big bummer," Loren says.<br/>
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Not much has changed when it comes to competing. The excitement and the passion are the same whether it is men or women athletes.

I observed in these young women confidence, enthusiasm and intensity. I saw teamwork, support for each other, and some tremendous athletic play. I don’t get to watch the competition at this level very often, and I was impressed.

After sitting in the bleachers for a bit, I had an idea who in the crowd were parents and grandparents — there to support and cheer their family member.

The one significant change since I played is that young women athletes can now compete — for some boomers, we remember that was not always the case. As with various issues in our country, it took a while to head in the right direction.

Century College lost an extremely competitive five-game set to Dallas College-Brookhaven, out of Texas. After the final point, there was crying, and there were hugs. Photos were taken, hands were shaken, and moms, dads, and grandparents embraced their kids and grandkids.

After the contest, I thought about introducing myself to the Century volleyball coaches, but there was too much emotion for an old alum from a way-back era to interject myself.

For players, this type of experience, or any extra curriculum participation stays with you — it means something when you wear a jersey or uniform from a particular school or college. Even after 50 years, I remain connected to Century.

The two-year college was a good fit for me, and I had some great professors and coaches. I have stayed in contact with some. It was a good time in my life.

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Staying engaged to this school is important to me and supporting it financially towards scholarships for this next generation feels right. Fundraising can be difficult for two-year colleges as many students move on to a four-year school and may lose that bond with the first college.

Like those young women who left it on the volleyball court that Saturday, for me almost 50 years ago, my collegiate career ended with a loss in a Minnesota junior college state championship basketball game. Runner-up didn’t have a good ring to it.

Eventually I understood that the season’s journey with my team and coaches to that final game was an accomplishment — well, sort of.

This column is dedicated to my high school and college coaches who are no longer with us: Bruce Harding, Ed Gustin, Lloyd Antilla and Bernie Golz. Man, you guys made me run a bunch of laps.

Loren Else lives in Rochester and also writes the Post Bulletin’s “Day in History” column. Send comments and column ideas to Loren at news@postbulletin.com .

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