Undermanned MN high school team gets a teaching moment

Ogilvie, Minn., (pop. 361) has the same problem a lot of small school districts have when it comes to high school sports. There just aren’t enough kids to field competitive teams (See Wrenshall). So many of the teams have “teaching moments.” Some are more meaningful than others.

On its Facebook page yesterday, the Minnesota State High School League posted a letter from the Ogilvie Lions’ assistant basketball coach, Matt Gunderson.

Our team is hardworking but after having four players leave our team during the year we have had to piece things together. Ogilvie is a very small school where winning isn’t a huge thing so when losses mount frustration can become a very real situation.

On our recent to trip to Kimball for a boys basketball game on Friday, Feb. 10, we knew we were going to have our hands full with a very good Cubs team that was near the top of our section (5A). The bus got there an hour early prior to the JV game so we had plenty of time to shoot and relax.

While the team was shooting around my four-year-old son was with me and he was dribbling a big varsity-sized ball on the baseline when the Kimball head coach, Jay Klein, came up to him and handed him a smaller ball. It was one that you would get from a carnival for playing a game; my son’s eyes lit up at the sight of a new ball. Coach Klein didn’t have to do that but he did out of the goodness of his heart.

The junior varsity game went to Kimball 60-38 with both teams battling a close second half that saw Kimball outscore Ogilvie only 24-23 after having a 36-15 halftime lead. Following the JV game, Mr. Klein approached me and gave me very positive comments about the team just by his observation of watching the game.

The varsity game was a bit more one-sided with Kimball winning 91-31.

Only having 14 players on the roster (9-12 grade), we don’t have the manpower to compete with most teams for a full game. Fatigue sets in as our rotation contains a core of six players (three seniors and three juniors). After those six we go to our JV players, who aren’t on a varsity level but due to lack of numbers are learning on the fly and working hard doing it.

Now to the reason I’m sending this email. Coach Klein of Kimball came into our locker room after the game and spoke to our players. He gave an example of the Kimball football team, which hasn’t won a game in four years.

The way he talked to the players, he has a very sportsmanship-like attitude and cares more about the lives of the students than the game of basketball.

As I continue my coaching career I hope I can become a coach like him because a coach like him is what every team needs. No matter if you’re undefeated or haven’t won a game, a coach who teaches life lessons that help players become better men first and ballplayers second is very important.

Our head coach in Ogilvie has been trying to teach our kids about life as the year has gone on, and now hearing it from another coach I hope the words we say in practice and in games begin to sink in.

Again, big thank you to Coach Klein for everything that he did. He didn’t have to do any of it but he did anyway.

Matt Gunderson
Assistant Boys Basketball Coach
Ogilvie High School