The Wide Angle: Juggling basketballs for $5

Published 7:01 am Sunday, February 26, 2017

A number of weeks ago I was in Hayfield with Rocky, our sportswriter for a twofer — a Progress story on longtime basketball coach and all around good guy Fred Kindschy and another story on two of his players — Carrie Rutledge and Maggie Streightiff.

I confess, I always like going to Hayfield. First because I’ve known Fred a long time now and always enjoy talking to him and secondly because the kids are top-notch and just fun to be around.

Maybe it’s because I went to a small school not that much smaller than Hayfield, but there is always a simple energy at small schools. Student-athletes are often time outgoing, fun and energetic and when you are working with them it’s easy to be swept up in what they are talking about while you’re working with them.

Email newsletter signup

These two were part of a larger bunch two years ago for another Progress story that ended up asking me if I liked taking pictures and then went into great detail as to why I don’t like taking wedding pictures.

It was an interesting walk to say the least.

On this day though after talking to Fred briefly and co-head coach Kasey Krekling, it was time to take the picture for Rutledge and Streightiff.

We took the shot — one serious, one smiling — and then they helped put basketballs used in the shot away.

They each picked up armfuls of basketballs and started to walk over to the cage they were kept in — the balls, not Rutledge and Streightiff.

On a whim I glanced at Rutledge and good-naturedly said, “I’ve got five bucks if you can juggle those three basketballs.”

She smiled, stopped and began rearranging the balls in her arms, looking at Streightiff and said, “I can do this.”

I thought as I laughed, “Holy crap, she can do this.” Largely this was looking like a problem because I did not have $5 on hand and I really don’t want to be indebted to a high school junior.

As it turned out she couldn’t and she didn’t, but I now live in constant fear that she’s going to at some point start juggling the basketballs. I don’t want to carry ear-marked cash around.

The point of this is simple though. Working with these kids on an almost daily basis is one the biggest perks of my job.

Sure I’m left wondering sometimes what they are thinking much like adults probably did when I was in high school and probably what kids often times think of me now.

It’s part of the fun. Remembering these kids not just for what they accomplish on the court or field is one thing, but some of the best stories are how they can be related to off it.

I can remember Rachel Quandt, Austin track stand-out, nearly taking a white towel and joining the Winona marching band’s flag team at halftime of a football game.

I can remember Blooming Prairie’s Hunter Henderson drilling me the first time with a foul ball and then taking the moment between pitches to apologize to me.

There have been so many good kids along the way, that I could probably write and entire book on it and simple would be, “Why I Love My Job.”

The fact of the matter is these kids not only reflect on themselves but on their communities as a whole. If I don’t like going to these communities than I’m not enjoying my job to the fullest.

So to all the athletes, former Austin Packer Dance Team captain and former Herald colleague Alex Smith said it best. You be you — I’m always up for some good laughs.