Once upon a time a perfectly good maxim held that “Practice makes perfect.” Someone, at some later date, much to the chagrin of those who subscribe to the notion that “Showing up is 90 percent of the battle,” had to go and amend the cliché, correctly in my opinion, to read “Perfect practice makes perfect.” My best interpretation of that extended extrapolation is that arriving, participating and dutifully hanging around is not, indeed, enough. Far from 90 percent, it might be closer to 9 percent of said “battle.” Let’s round it up to ten.
Another tried half-truth is that “Good things come to those who wait.” Again, the passivists find hope in the notion that simply biding one’s time until success, happiness or some vague positive result magically appears as if by divine due, is a virtue. I would modify this little moral to say: “Good things come to those who weight (the value of hard work and victory as a constant goal over idly awaiting an outcome they think they deserve).”
Granted, I’m no poet or profundus maxim-ist, but the point stands that a sense of urgency and an expectation of immediate rewards are the natural state of a competitive athlete, not of a somber, sober, solemn practitioner of patience. There’s a reason Monk, Brahman (not the bull) and Yogi (neither the Bear nor the Berra) are seldom-seen mascots.
But for a talented, nose-to-the-grindstone and ever-ambitious Sidney Cowgirl senior class, much of the last three years has been an anxious anticipation of a time to come. Not by design or desire, of course, but by the degree of Corner Conference competitors that stood in their way. They were weaned under the affluence and influence of Stanton, Villisca and Nishnabotna senior standouts, grew strong through fierce contests with Fremont-Mills, East Mills and Essex teams that were a single, solid year of experience ahead and, now, stand tall, having eclipsed them all as state tournament qualifiers and the lone conference sports squad left on the court.
Early in my tenure, I wrote extensively about the all-around exploits of Blue Devil stars Molly Goltz and Alexia Blank and witnessed plenty of impressive performances by studs like Villisca’s Jill Vanderhoof and Stanton’s Carmen Subbert, schools and players I didn’t specifically cover. Later, the focus shifted to Trojanettes Haley Fundermann and Seana Perkins and the growing legend of the Lady Knights’ non-twin twin bill of Macy Williams and Taryn Williams, who brought their teams to the brink and, eventually in their final basketball season, the bright lights of a state tournament berth.
But I saw the potential of the Cowgirl gang of four from the get-go. Lexy Larsen, Mac Daffer, Quinn Sheldon and Kenna Nennemann, each with her own strengths, have competed together since well before high school and showed every ounce of the skill, dedication, determination and positive mindset it takes to coalesce a cadre of gifted individuals into a championship team. Unfortunately, they had the Viqueen dynasty and the Lady Knight conquest to contend with through the bulk of their own ascension.
But it was fortunate, as well. The Cowgirls’ “waiting” game provided both the blueprint and the real, on-the-court battles they needed to reach the pinnacle they occupy today. The truest mark of their virtue, and the validation of their journey beyond this season’s fantastic record and tonight’s big match in Des Moines, is that they didn’t just expect their time to come, they fought every day for three years, on the practice floor and against some of the best athletes and teams southwest Iowa has ever produced, for that time to be now. And now, it’s here.
Having been away from the local sports scene for a significant chunk of this past season, I can’t – and shouldn’t – offer any sage advice or sound strategy to the Cowgirls prior to their big dance with Springville this evening. I can, from my state basketball experience watching F-M take on the Orioles this past winter, say be prepared for a vocal and borderline vicious student section. Despite a prominently posted IGHSAU website message about the etiquette of positive cheering and not singling out opposing players, they spent the majority of that game doing just that. Maybe they’ve changed their ways, but if you happen to be a Sidney star whose name has appeared frequently in stories and stat lines, don’t be surprised or rattled by a fair share of unwanted attention from the other side of the stands.
Beyond that, I would say to this Cowgirl corps, particularly the core senior quartet who have impatiently awaited their moment in the spotlight, maybe this isn’t quite your “time” yet. Maybe tonight isn’t the greatest glory you’ve anticipated since first stepping into the varsity arena so many seasons ago. Maybe this is just another battle in the war you’ve been waging and the real prize is still a day or two away. Maybe the “good thing” you’ve been perfectly practicing for is better than you could have even imagined as a fresh-faced freshman facing the struggle that unfolded. Maybe you’re not all the way there yet.
Maybe the wait, or the weight, isn’t quite over.