Editorial: Fifth graders are state champs for four reasons

THE STATE CHAMPION Ripon Tigers Traveling Team is comprised of, front from left, Nick Brueggeman, Bradley Gabrielski, Joe Sharp, Sam Novitske, Andrew Radloff, J.J. Zack, Jack Haas; back row, coach Jason Loewe, Hunter Merrill, Tyler Pick, Michael Standke, Bennett Vander Plas, Luke Loewe, Trey Auchtung and coach Todd Novitske. submitted photo

What does it take to be a champion?

Just ask one of 14 Murray Park Elementary School fifth graders who recently learned that when it comes to basketball in the state of Wisconsin, they are the best.

The Ripon Tigers Traveling Team emerged from the top of a 22-team heap after beating Monroe 29-19 in the state tournament April 10 and 11 in Kimberly and Menasha.

This special group of pee-wee players — most of them are 11-year-olds — learned lessons on their way to the fifth-grade state championship the rest of us would be wise to heed.

1. Nothing beats hard work. ... Practicing together since Nov. 1... they learned that with practice, perseverance and patient parents, one has a shot at using his or her talents to go all the way.

2. You can’t do it on your own. To excel, everyone needs a coach, and these boys had many. Jason Loewe and Todd Novitske taught the boys fundamentals... But parents, too, motivated the youngsters with their gentle words of support ... The boys’ introduction to the sport came at an early age, courtesy of the Ripon Backboard Club, which sold many Christmas trees over the years (thanks to Ripon High School Coach Dean Vander Plas and other parents) to teach young hoopsters about the game.

3. There’s no “I” in selflessness. The Traveling Tigers just plain like each other — many play side-by-side in football and baseball — and so are friends as well as teammates. ...

4. Recognize that winning means more than scoring the most points. ...

Good life lessons for fifth graders. But not so bad for the rest of us, either. — Tim Lyke

Read the full editorial in the April 22, 2010 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.

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