The Choteau High School Lady Bulldogs and the Fairfield High School Lady Eagles are traveling to Bozeman this week to compete in the All-Class state volleyball tournament. Class C Simms will also be there. We wish the Choteau, Fairfield and Simms girls all the best in their tournament. While we hope they all come home bearing tournament hardware, we know that the things they have learned during this season are probably far more important in their future lives than the temporary joy winning a state championship will bring.

Through the leadership of their coaches, the Choteau and Fairfield girls have become fierce competitors on the court and friends off the court. They have taken a spirited rivalry between the two high schools and they have found a way to transcend the competitive nature of that relationship with common ground on which they are building friendships.

They have learned through their years in volleyball to be good-hearted in defeat and respectful in victory. They have learned to value each member of their teams for her own special qualities. The older girls have shown as leaders and the younger girls have stepped up to the plate to follow successfully in the footsteps of the upperclasswomen.

No matter how the state tournament finishes, all the volleyball fans in Choteau and Fairfield have gotten their money’s worth from their admission charges all season. These girls have played their hearts out, showing growth throughout the season and overcoming challenges (like three of Choteau’s starters being sick during the divisional meet). We are very fortunate to live in rural Montana, to have student athletes who want to be the very best they can, and to have caring adults who mentor these young women who are today’s stars on the volleyball court and tomorrow’s doctors, nurses, legislators, CEOs, teachers, ranchers, lawyers and leaders. 

Thank you also to all our fall sports coaches — tennis, cross-country, football and volleyball — for all the time, talent and energy you have put into coaching area high school teams. We are indeed blessed to live here, where people are still neighborly and where we still care about each other, no matter what our differences may be.

Maybe our student athletes can offer us as adults another important lesson: That there are winners and losers every time two teams take the court or the field. The real lessons of those competitions, however, are how we respond, how we act as winners or losers. The true make-up of our character shows when we are gracious losers and humble winners. Let’s hope America can channel these student athletes’ good sportsmanship come Wednesday when the results of the midterm elections are known.