When was the last time you waited in a line that stretched outside the building to attend a high school athletic event? While plenty of fans go to high school sporting events the choices are so varied today that individual events rarely see capacity crowds.
That wasn't the case in 1954 when Brainerd High School won the boys' state basketball championship. Hoops were just about the only game in town. Brainerd Warrior basketball's only competition that winter was wrestling. There were no girls' sports.
Athletic opportunities are plentiful for today's Brainerd high school student with about 30 different varsity sports to chose from. Today's high school athlete can choose from traditional sports such as football and baseball to newer additions such as competitive cheerleading or adapted floor hockey.
School administrators and coaches understand the importance of students developing a life-long habit of fitness. This realization has broadened the opportunities for many kids who might have had to otherwise sit on the sidelines. The most dramatic broadening of opportunities, of course, has been for girls. Fifty years ago there were few venues where the athletic talents of high school girls could be showcased. Few parents would want to go back to those days when only the boys played on competitive teams but something was lost when the high school athletic landscape evolved into its current mode.
Fan interest, understandably, was diluted by the increasing number of sports. Parents who watched their daughter's swimming meet couldn't always make time to attend a basketball game or wrestling match. Crowds at individual competitions decreased because there were more events to attend.
The excitement of packed gyms with the entire community focused on a particular team is one of the cherished memories members of Brainerd High School's 1954 championship basketball team retain. Some of that excitement may be recaptured at tonight's Brainerd basketball game where members and coaches of that 1954 team will be honored.
Those old enough to remember that championship run recall the fervent pride the entire community took in the boys' team. Those too young to remember can rent the movie "Hoosiers" to get an idea of what a winning high school basketball team meant to a small community.
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