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home : columns : joel alvstad May 24, 2016

3/5/2014 8:47:00 AM
One way to get students into the game: ban phones

Joel Alvstad
Sports Editor

Being a bit of an Internet junkie, I tend to spend a fair chunk of my free time scouring Twitter and Facebook.
Something I came across this week caught me by surprise.
The story was by Tim Gallagher, the former editor of the Jackson County Pilot who is now at the Sioux City Journal. He wrote about the student section at Western Christian in Hull, Iowa.
Before each game, a large box is passed around the student section. Each student places his or her cell phone in the box. The box is then kept guarded by an upperclassman in the crowd.
By taking away the cell phones, the students are able to focus on the action, support their team and cheer on their fellow classmates.
The box was the idea of a senior at the school who was upset when he saw a group of freshman at the game, texting and tweeting instead of watching the action and supporting the team.
Now, in my profession, one of the things I do is send out Twitter updates of the action as it happens. I typically will tweet out the score whenever a time out is called, so I'm not really missing much action because of Twitter.
But in a time when school spirit seems to be waning, it took the actions of a high school kid to really show everyone in the school why it seemed that way: technology.
After the game, the student in charge of the box personally hands the cell phones back to their rightful owners, and teenage life goes right back to normal.
I've been to countless sporting events over the years and I've seen a wide range of support from students for their classmates and friends.
But I think it's a tremendous idea that promotes being actively involved in a game as a fan. With the distractions gone, the student fans are able to focus on the game and cheer on their friends.
Maybe that's a trend we'll see more of in the future.
Small world
When Windom-Mt. Lake wrestler Vince Johnson advanced to the semifinals of the state tournament this year, his opponent was a relative unknown for most casual wrestling fans.
But when I saw who he wrestled in the semifinals, it immediately rang a bell for me.
Johnson's opponent was Hunter Fick of West Central Area/Ashby/Evansville.
For starters, Fick wrestles for the team that includes my old high school (even though I know he goes to school in Ashby). But second, Fick was one of the subjects of my post-state tournament column from a year ago.
Last year, Fick qualified for state as a sophomore in his first year ever in the sport. After he lost 3-1 in the first round, he sought out the kid he lost to, Colton Laymon of West Marshall, to get advice - which Laymon, to my surprise and astonishment, was more than willing to give. With both wrestlers yukking it up, it was a scene I'll always remember.
Apparently the pointers helped. Fick got back to State this year and finished fifth at 195 pounds after losing to Johnson in the semifinals. And, as a junior, he'll have one more crack at a state title next year. His team had five state qualifiers who were all underclassmen, meaning they could be a force to reckon with next year.

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