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Letter: In defense of Minnesota West football - and athletics

By Joel Krekelberg, Worthington

I could not sit back and let the community think that the Minnesota West Football program is a bunch of pirates and thugs. A few kids (and I’ll call them that, because most of them are kids) made poor choices and it shouldn’t affect the whole college athletic program. I certainly do not think it should affect all athletics and I am not sure it should punish the whole football team, either. I am told most of the players walked away or pulled the offending players off and took them to the bus.

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The whole story is not out there and I am sure when and if it is, at least some light will be shed on why these players reacted the way they did. It is no excuse for the players that decided to take matters into their own hands, but I think we all should consider some of the racial slurs that were being yelled during the game.

I have been around athletics at all levels from elementary school with my kids all the way to the NFL level, and each has its issues with fans and coaches. Look at what is happening at Miami.

Remember, we need to understand what goes on in the locker room, practice fields and games other than from 50 feet away from the field. These kids fight side by side in a sport that is not only tremendously physical but emotional as well. It starts building steam from high school on. It is what makes athletics so important to these kids. It is, in some cases, the only positives these kids get from an adult in their lives. It is the family many never had. That should not be taken away.

I am not condoning the behavior of the few that got involved in the “brawl,” but I feel someone needs to show the side of the rest of the team and especially the coaches.

I have been here in Worthington as an athletic trainer for 28 years, and we have had times when things have been good and when times were bad. I have never seen any coach in the Minnesota West program (especially Jeff Linder) ever questioned for pulling a kid from the field and game because of an injury. I have also seen many times when a coach got in the face of a player who acted inappropriately and he usually dealt with it right then and there. I was not in Brainerd, so I cannot and will not defend that incident. I can only say I have been on the sidelines for many years and have found the vast majority of kids respect their coaches and teammates — and if they did something that was in question, they would feel remorse for their action.

This is how kids learn. There are consequences for poor choices. Let us not just take the ball away and go home! I would feel closing a program down because of this incident would not only be a mistake, but send a poor message not only to the kids but the community in general. People make mistakes and poor choices in life. Does it make sense to just shut down a program? If a student got in a fistfight in a chemistry class because someone was bullying him or using racial slurs, would you shut down the chemistry department?

Athletics is a big part of the college experience. When student athletes come to campus they often bring along a girlfriend, boyfriend or a friend from their community they are coming from. This enriches the college experience, adds diversity of students and frankly gives some of these kids a little longer to learn some of life’s lessons and hopefully pick up some positives in life.

I am writing this letter in support of Coach Linder and his staff and all the family of coaches at Minnesota West. They are an integral part of this community and college. Please consider this a positive reflection on how much athletics impacts the student-athlete.

Joel Krekelberg