Guest Column

A Fantasy Fulfilled

by LARRY CLINEFELTER


Iam told it is a fairly standard notion among young boys that they hope to grow up big and strong and become a firefighter. Or maybe a police officer.

As far back as I can remember, I always had aspired to become a writer for Sports Illustrated magazine. While this may sound peculiar for an 8-year-old, give it a moment to sink in. I was a sports fanatic--any sport, especially baseball, football and basketball.

As a writer for a sports magazine, I figured I would be admitted into any sporting event I wanted for free. And I would be allowed to speak to the heroes of the day as a course of my everyday job. I might even be able to hang around these people.

All anyone would need to do to continue with this fantasy life would be to write an occasional article. How tough could that be? I already knew all the questions anyone would want to ask these sports personalities because I knew that the questions roaming around in my head must be the same as those everyone else was curious about.

Fortunately for the readers of Sports Illustrated, I became more interested in teaching elementary school. But I must confess I still harbor a slight touch of the fantasy. Every time I watch a sporting event, my mind clicks out angles for a story. How might I present a different slant from the obvious outcome and statistics? That 8-year-old in me just won’t give up the possibility.

The Super Bowl earlier this year was overflowing with painfully obvious angles.

There was the quarterback who wouldn’t give up on his life dream to make it to the top professional league. He was given little chance to succeed with many different teams, but had the stubborn determination to continue.

There was the spiritual side to this man--and his family. He showed a genuine willingness to put God first. Nice angle indeed.

There is the story of the 63-year-old head coach who had been told many times that the game had simply passed him by. I really like old coach stories.

There was the story about a boy from Webb City, Mo., who was told he was too little to play professional football. Stubborn determination is a part of his life, too.

And certainly, there were failures in the game. Missed tackles. Dropped passes. And a receiver who caught a long pass on the last play of the game and came up about a foot short of the goal line.

But the people involved were not failures. They simply came up short this time. They will try again. And again. And their success will be measured by their stubborn determination to continue. They will be winners in life. They already are.


Drama Watching
Wouldn’t it be a grand life to spend all of one’s time chasing such story angles and living these types of successes (and failures) on a daily basis? Wouldn’t it be grand to follow these life stories involving such stubborn determination--to see success being groomed each and every day out on a practice field? To watch the coaches draw from their players all their talent and energy?

As it turns out, I actually do get to watch this inspiring sort of life drama unfold every day. Furthermore, I get to see it in a setting much more important than a domed stadium. I see it at school. Our schools.

If you want to encounter a healthy dose of stubborn determination, just take a moment to watch a master teacher. Talk about someone pulling all the talent and potential from a student!

In school, much like the big game, we see spectacular successes--a valedictorian, an all-state athlete or musician, an accelerated reading champion. These angles are easy to notice. And they are wonderful to behold.

Much like that missed tackle, we also will witness failures in our school. A failed test. A blown assignment. A lesson plan gone astray. But these are only momentary lapses. The teachers, administrators and students who come up short one day must try again. And again. And they too will be measured by their stubborn determination to succeed. This continued effort makes them winners in the grandest of schemes.

Stories Abound
The powerful success stories actually come in the day-to-day work that goes on. The teachers who consistently go the extra mile. The instructional aides who give 100 percent every day for every student. The custodians, the food service people, bus drivers, office personnel and, of course, the students. Their success and failure stories are often dramatic. Stubborn determination, however, will win each and every time.

The angles are here, as is the love. And the stubborn determination to give each and every child a chance to hold up that winning trophy in life. If you aren’t watching it, you’re missing one heck of a drama. Bigger than the Super Bowl and much more important.

And I get to write about it. I even get to hang around these people. Fantasy fulfilled.

Larry Clinefelter is superintendent of Laclede County Schools R-1, 726 W. Jefferson Ave., Conway, MO 65632. E-mail: lclinefelter@fs1.conway.k12.mo.us