The man with the bushy sideburns coaching the team in the mismatched uniforms was on to something. Years later, we would call it emotional intelligence, but at the time, it was simply considered weird, or worse, countercultural.
Regardless, Lynn Sweet’s English students, and then his baseball team, experienced other-worldly success. Despite his unusual tactics (optional practice, blaring music in pre-game warm-ups, kid-supplied line ups, and so on), his success kept him in place, buying him more and more rope till he reached a place where nobody questioned how he was doing what he was doing – the Illinois State Baseball Tournament.
Just like Hickory, Ind. – the famous fictional town in the movie Hoosiers – Sweet’s team, the Macon Hawks, hailed from the smallest of the small schools that dot rural Illinois and ended up beating much larger, better funded teams from Chicago to advance all the way to the State Championship where they lost in a hard-fought struggle.
Five short years later, Sweet retired from the sport, noting parental expectations and the outsized worshipping of sports as his reasons. His last words on the subject were, “it was no longer fun.”
You can read all about this little town and that magical 1971 season in Chris Ballard’s book, One Shot At Forever.
This story was fresh in my mind as I read through this month’s issue. The parallels between the stories in this issue and Sweet’s belief that a coach/teacher/parent should act as a guide to his young charges, allowing them the freedom to think for themselves and take intellectual risks, are evident.
I can’t help but think that Sweet would enjoy and agree with Chris Thurber’s, “Boys Will Be Girls… And Girls Will Be Boys” column (pg. 39), which tackles the subject of gender-role stereotypes, and Karen Dusek’s “A Harmonious Arrangement,” (pg. 12) which profiles the Rocky Ridge Music Center, a residential music program located in the midst of Rocky Mountain National Park.
We have some other non-traditional ideas. David Maynard of Pleasant Vineyard Ministries (“Brush Up On Paintball,” pg. 21) illustrates how a Christian camp uses paintball as part of its core curriculum. And of course, we have the usual standbys and additional surprises.
All-in-all, I’m happy with the result. I hope you are too.
Till next month…
Rodney J. Auth
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