Hulne: Sports can strengthen deep bonds

Published 6:02 pm Monday, March 12, 2018

There are times when sports go far beyond the final score and push us to think of the deeper impact competition can have. This weekend was one of those times.

It all started with what was a bittersweet 24 hours for Lyle-Pacelli.

On Friday night in Mayo Civic Center, the LP girls basketball team clinched a trip to the Minnesota Class A Girls State Basketball Tournament with a big win over Hayfield. On Saturday afternoon in Mayo Civic Center, the LP boys basketball team had its upset bid fall short when its season came to an end in a loss to Spring Grove.

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What caught my attention during those games was the family connection on both squads and that had me thinking deeper about the impact of sports on family bonds. LP’s basketball teams were in a unique situation this season as Brooke Walter, Abby Bollingberg and Lucy Nelson all have younger brothers — Cole Walter, Zach Bollingberg and Jed Nelson — playing basketball. It was pretty cool to see the younger brothers in the LP crowd cheering on their sisters Friday night and the following day those sisters returned the favor by cheering on their brothers. If that doesn’t bring a family together, I don’t know what does.

Watching the sibling support brings me back to my memories of playing sports while growing up in a household with six children. Since my mom ran a day care, the house was plenty busy with people coming and going, but I always latched on to my younger brother Christopher, who is three years younger than me. Christopher and I shared a strong interest in football and basketball. We spent countless hours watching games together and talking about sports, but it is our pick-up basketball games in the driveway that I recall the most. Sometimes we’d find a couple of friends and play two-on-two as teammates, sometimes we’d play on opposite teams and sometimes we’d play one-on-one. One day we were feeling particularly crazy and we played a game of one-on-one to 100 points on a hot summer day. I knew the game had gone a little long when it lasted all the way through the album ‘Astro-Creep’ by White Zombie.

We also played through the night on rare occasions, using the dim street lamp by our house and the garage light as our arena spotlights. Sometimes the games got a little heated, especially when we put our pride on the line. One contest still stands strong in my memory. There was a lot of contact on both sides and I may have thrown an inadvertent elbow in to Christopher’s face out of frustration at one point. The next thing I knew, he was clipping me from behind as I went up for a lay-up. It took me about two seconds to jump off the hard pavement and begin throwing hay-makers in his general direction. It was our only ‘real’ fight and it was broken up pretty fast by our friends.

When it was over, we both took our time to cool off and we were best friends again by the end of the night. But we never did finish that game.

The reason I tell that story isn’t to make my brother look cheap, although he could’ve seriously injured me. I tell it because it shows the bond sports created in our lives. We had been teammates and opponents enough times that our respect couldn’t have be greater for each other. When we were mad, we didn’t stay mad at each other for long.

To this day, Christopher and I get along on a different level than the rest of my family. If I have a problem or need advice, he’s one of the first people I’ll call.

We still like to re-live that fight story to this day, and it usually leads to laughter by both of us as we recount how competitive we once were. But that competition was good for us. It drove us beyond sports and pushed us to take on life without fear. It made us better people.

As my own two children get older, I really hope they find something they love as much as I love sports that can help them build their character. It would be great if it was sports. Even if they aren’t the best player, there is a lot to be gained from being on a team and a lot can be learned from the painful sting of a tough loss.

It’s those losses that provide the ultimate test of character and those tests are just a little bit easier when you have a sibling in your corner. If you and your sibling member go through enough challenges together, you just might have an unbreakable bond.