STUART, Iowa -- Losing the first two games of the season can take its toll on any team. Not being able to finish a game due to injuries and safety concerns can destroy morale. "Nobody mailed it in and we wondered if that would happen," said West Central Valley Community School District Superintendent Lance Ridgely.
On September 6th vs Earlham, Class 1A West Central Valley head coach Shaen Polasky was forced to call the game at halftime down 70-0. "The week earlier we had four kids that went out with concussions or injuries and then we had 8 people on the sideline which means 12 of our starters were out with concussions or injuries," said Polasky.
Senior captain and running back Kade Kunkle is among the injured with a concussion but was back on the sideline supporting his teammates at practice. Kunkle said, "We are all just trying to learn together as a family and stay positive and keep a good mentality because we are trying to change the culture."
The Wildcats began the season with fifty players from freshman through varsity which is up from last year but many of them are first year players. To ensure more safety and a healthy team, practice is focusing on fundamentals. "Keep them safe. Number one is safety because when our kids aren`t safe it`s not good for us as a district and it`s not good for them or our families," Ridgely said.
In Iowa, the National Federation of State High School Associations says the 2017-2018 season saw a 13% decrease from peak participation in 2007-08 season. Numbers have dropped nine of the previous ten years but not everyone points the blame at injuries. Coach Polaski said, "You want to get better, you work hard day after day. Good success does not happen instantly. It`s not like the internet where you instantly type it in."
Each Friday the scoreboard will loudly display the victorious but West Central Valley believes their progress will be measured differently because there is triumph is overcoming adversity. Polasky said, "It`s about life. It is about no matter how bad things are how the struggles are you need to have an objective mindset. What do I need to do to get better?"