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Thorpe football has big potential

It’s the bad program, not bad kids

 

 

Despite having a roster loaded with raw talent, the Thorpes started the 2018 football season in disarray on and off the football field. They opened at home with a 46-26 loss to archrival Red Cloud, and then lost 45-14 on the road against Lead/Deadwood.

In each of those games, it was obvious the Thorpes had the size, skill and toughness to be a much better football team. On Facebook players talk to other players, and they express the fears and hopes typical of teenage boys, and the Thorpes were clearly disheartened by the adult authority figures around them, so they posted comments like “adults acting like kids nowadays” and responses like “Fr bruh.”

One thing you won’t see Lakota athletes doing much is airing all the dirty laundry. They know to stay tight lipped. When they do post something, there is a deep backstory compelling that comment to be typed. They didn’t just impulsively sit down and toss it out there for fun.

Corey Shangreaux is back coaching Thorpe Head Coach Sam Bravo’s offense. It is commendable he would take that responsibility, given the diffi- cult time he had with irate fans last season as Boys basketball coach. In their last two outings, the Thorpes have beaten Bennett County, 38-8, and spoiled McLaughlin’s homecoming, 56-6. They get Crow Creek this week, and the Chieftains will be victim number three.

That will put the Thorpes at 3-2, with Custer, Belle Fourche, Sturgis and Little Wound to come. The Thorpes will beat Little Wound, but Custer and Belle will require them all to bear down and play their best team ball, to block and tackle and stay focused and determined. Sturgis is coming down to Pine Ridge, with a team good enough to have beaten St Thomas More, 33-20. After the cancellation of last year’s “Go back to the rez” football game, this was an important olive branch necessary to heal that racist wound. Not a football game you will want to miss.

Given stable and principled leadership, the Thorpes have the talent year after year to be a tough football program. Look at St Thomas More’s Wayne Sullivan. Principal of a high school noted for scholastic excellence, he has also spent decades building a football legacy that other teams measure their success by—“Wow, we beat STM, we must be good!” Imagine what the Thorpes would be like if they had Wayne Sullivan and his staff running their football program.

How does STM handle defeat and adversity? Same way they handle success—they just keep on being STM, the team every West River school wants to beat. Sullivan has a boy, Jed, and he’s a freshman on the team. This Lakota boy has speed, agility, smarts, he is already an exceptional football player. But he doesn’t even start. Sullivan expects his boy to earn his way up through the ranks the correct way, like every other player. These are the kind of mentoring ethics every program needs to prosper. It is time to stop blaming Lakota kids for being bad football players, and place the blame where it should always be placed—it’s the bad program, not bad kids.

(James Giago Davies is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota tribe. He can be reached at skindiesel@msn.com)

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