Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

Those words were immortalized by the legendary Green Bay Packers Coach Vince Lombardi.

Lombardi's thoughts about winning may be worth bearing in mind as Enterprise Athletic Director Mike Crawford tries to drum up support for combining the high school athletic programs at Enterprise and Joseph.

Crawford believes that by joining forces the two schools will be more competitive against larger schools like Nyssa and Grant Union, which have been dominating the Wapiti League the past couple of years as enrollments plummeted in Enterprise and Joseph. At the same time merger would allow younger players to be matched up with competitors closer to their own age, thus reducing the likelihood of injuries of the kind which plagued the Enterprise football team during its 2002 campaign.

A combined effort may produce other benefits as well.

One disturbing trend that has gained acceptance as a result of attempts to balance ever tighter budgets is the use of civilian coaches. Former high school jocks with little or no educational background whatsover are now routinely hired as high school coaches. This practice is fraught with dangers and potential liabilities. It is not enough to simply understand the strategy and skills involved in a particular athletic event. Coaching in a public school setting necessarily requires a much broader understanding of child psychology, group dynamics, teaching methodology, confidentiality and reporting standards, and many other proficiencies that teachers are required to demonstrate before they are granted a license.

A combined program would also reduce fixed costs in some areas while possibly raising them in others. The cost of busing kids all over Eastern Oregon for football, basketball, baseball, track, volleyball, wrestling, cross-country, and golf events could be cut in half. The cost of outfitting teams with uniforms, balls, bats, and other equipment would likewise be reduced. Admittedly there may be some increase in getting players from the two teams together for practice but that would more than likely be offset by savings in other areas.

There would also be less duplication in needed donations. How many businesses would welcome the opportunity to contribute to one team instead of two?

Winning may not be everything but it does have its merits. The citizens of Wallowa County have always taken a lot of pride in seeing their athletes win a big game, district tournament or state championship. Unfortunately, in the face of declining enrollments at both schools that is getting to be an elusive proposition. R.S.

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