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Rural high-school sports

Topics/tags: autobiographical, parenting, Grinnell (the town)

One of the things I’ve most enjoyed about living in Grinnell is how close everything is. I can walk to work in ten minutes [1]. When my kids were in elementary school, it was easy for me to take an hour or so to go off and read to their class. As they reached high school, I found (and find) it easy to leave work at 4 p.m. to make it to one of their sporting events. For example, this week I’m able to make it to all three home tennis matches [2].

But there’s an associated problem with away meets. While there are some similarly sized schools nearby [3], to get enough different competitors, you have to look a bit further.

Let’s take the other day as an example [4]. Youngest Son had an away tennis meet. We had a major conference on campus that I wanted to attend, so I wasn’t planning to attend the meet. But Michelle really wanted to go and wasn’t up to driving. So we went. It was in Boone. Boone is about seventy-five miles or ninety minutes from Grinnell [5]. And, well, there aren’t that many tennis matches left in YS’s high school career. So I drove Michelle. We even stopped for a quick (20-30 min) dinner on the way home.

All in all, it was six hours door to door.

On the positive side, I got a break from work. On the negative, that meant that work stacked up. A lot of work stacked up. Six uninterrupted hours is a lot [6].

But that’s not the focus of this musing.

Rather, it’s to note one key way in which the experience of a rural parent is likely much different than the experience of an urban or suburban parent. While we are close to some things, we are much, much further from others.

There are, of course, other issues at play. For example, I love that the kids are not tracked into activities. All three boys competed in three sports, played in band, sang in choir, worked in theatre (usually tech theatre), and took College classes. No one said, You’re a band nerd; you can’t play football. No one said, You’re a swimmer; you can’t do a play. No one said, You’re a football player; you can’t swim.

Of course, because they could do so many things, they were (and are) so many more opportunities to travel the not-insubstantial distances to their events. I’ve regularly found myself driving more than an hour to school concerts, athletic competitions, speech contests, math competitions, and many other things.

You know what? It’s worth it.

Postscript: Some of my readers may have been expecting me to wade into the debate about school cancellations (or at least early outs) when our sports teams make it to state competitions. I’ll just say that (a) I consider this a complex issue and (b) I’d like to see similar choices made when, say, the high-school band gets a similar honor.

[1] When you count parking time and walking from the parking log, I can also drive to work in ten minutes.

[2] Tennis has a compressed season. In addition to the three home matches (Monday, Tuesday, and Friday), they also have away meets on Thursday and Saturday. Saturday is varsity only; the rest are both JV and varsity.

[3] nearby = less than 45 minutes away

[4] When I took notes for this musing, the other day was two or three days ago. When I finally got around to writing it, the other day had become about a week and a half ago.

[5] Road construction.

[6] Of course, I was scheduled to be at the conference for most of that time, so it’s not like I really would have gotten any work done. But I do multitask once in a while.

Version 1.0 of 2018-04-24.