Alumni, wherefore art thou?

By: Jim Linsdau of The News Messenger
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It has long been the lament of many high school coaches that more of the school’s alumni do not come out to support many of the high school sports being played.

The lament, of course, is the hard work that is put in by the student-athletes and performances that rival colleges and sometimes even the pros that get little or no recognition. Fans of sports, or a particular sport, often turn away from prep athletics if they do not have a son or daughter competing.

Some fans claim they come only if the team is winning, but they often don’t take the time to find out if they’re winning. Chicago Cubs knew for decades that their baseball team wasn’t winning, but they hung in there until that golden season in 2016.

It is particularly distressing that alumni who played sports in their respective alma maters do not return in support of their school's athletics. Look what they do at many of the major colleges and universities; that alumni support has helped build some terrific programs.

“That’s exactly what Lincoln needs. They need the people who have been in this town for years and years and take pride in their high school student-athletes no matter what sport it is,” Lincoln girls basketball head coach Tim Sprinkles said. “Whether it’s girls basketball, boys basketball, volleyball, it doesn’t matter. It’s something we definitely need to work on.”

And Sprinkles is putting his efforts where his heart is. Marketing a team is an art and not all coaches have that experience, they’re often too busy trying to build a winning program, while getting little or no community support.

Sprinkles has teamed up with Lincoln football coach Chris Bean. Besides being a terrific coach, Sprinkles thinks Bean is also in a unique position to reach out to the local community.

“I think it all starts at the beginning of the year with the football program and Chris Bean is doing a fantastic job,” Sprinkles said. “The football season kind of sets the tone for the rest of the sports programs the rest of the year. Because if the football team does well then you kind of know that is a really good athletic school.”

And athletic schools attract student-athletes.

Last week Zebras’ boys basketball head coach Robert Ash pointed out the folly of thinking a school with a championship reputation will turn one’s son or daughter into a champion. The truth is actually the opposite, championship players make championship schools.

Case in point the Garcia brothers, Isaiah and Elijah. They helped the Lincoln baseball team win back-to-back section championships the past two seasons. Of course they did not do it alone, but the point is they could have gone to Whitney, or elsewhere and played. However, their Lincoln alumnus father, Raymond Garcia, groomed them to be Zebras.

Lincoln sports are already having to deal with Division II competition and in the fall of 2018 will likely be in a new league. Although the Tri-County Conference is considered a Division III league, five of the six teams pegged to fill it are either Division II or Division I.

To make that step successful, Lincoln High could use all the support it can get – that’s how communities develop a championship school.

“Moving into a new league; we’re used to tough teams,” Sprinkles said. “It doesn’t matter where we go in league; it’s going to be tough no matter where we go.”

And it’s going to be a whole lot tougher if the Zebras have to go it alone.