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IT'S ALL ABOUT WINNING?

"It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game." How many times have athletes heard that particular bit of wisdom? However, despite the apparent message of this over-used sports saying, winning is becoming more and more of an issue.

It all starts when we are little kids, just starting out in a summer league program. We are bombarded with lectures about being a team player, good sportsmanship, and how to be a good winner as well as a good loser. We take it all in, and believe it. However, this idealistic approach to the game does not always follow us into high school and beyond. As we get older, and join the varsity teams at school, the whole atmosphere of the game slowly changes. We no longer are here just to have a good time. We are here to annihilate our opponent. We are here to win that state championship title. Fun? Not necessarily. If it is a byproduct of your wins, great. If it isn't, that's fine, too.

Don't get me wrong, I am co-captain of my school's junior varsity volleyball team. We were undefeated last year and we won 13 of 18 games this year. Winning brings so many wonderful feelings: of accomplishment, pride and camaraderie with your teammates. In addition, I am an extremely competitive person, and if we don't win our games, I feel terrible. However, I think there should be more of a focus on just having fun and improving your skills than of killing your opposition.

In order to get ahead and stand out at the varsity level, you have to have extra practice time year-round. This is essentially a good idea, preventing athletes from getting rusty during the off-season. However, extra practicing has reached an extreme. For example, a volleyball player can join what is called a club team. There are tryouts just like a regular volleyball team, and the players are sorted according to skill level. There's practice once a week, and big tournaments on weekends. This is all very good for the players who can afford it and are allowed to participate in club. Then again, what about those who can't?

Is it honestly fair to match up the kids who go to club year-round and the kids who only play for the school? For a variety of reasons, some kids aren't allowed to play club. The cost, the drive (up to two hours either way, not counting those tournaments that are out of state), and time (homework, other extracurricular activities, etc.) are only a few reasons for not playing club. Another is something that my mom brought up. She has my two brothers and one sister to run around, too. Is she going to make them ride around the state every weekend just for me? I don't think so.

So when I'm matched against players with club experience, there is a vivid difference in our playing abilities. It's not that I'm terrible. It's just that they are very, very good. Compare our playing time, three months a year and eight months a year. And I'm supposed to compete with these same girls for a spot on the team? Insanity, I tell you.

Perhaps the sports frenzy is a good thing. However, they should make it equal for everyone involved. Not everyone has $200 spare, or 12 extra hours a week in which to ride to and from club meets. Is it right that these same girls are playing against the girls that do? In order to truly make any sport fun, as they should be, we have to have an even playing field. And that's the truth.

Kristy Kibler is a sophomore at Attica Central.