Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The pure joy of sport in Alaska helped form Sarah Palin's character

Playing high school sports in Alaska in 1982 required a high level of commitment from families, schools, and coaches. Whereas in the lower 48, the distance between two competing schools can be covered in a half hour car or bus ride, the adventure of getting there becomes a far more significant part of the experience than the actual athletic event itself at times.

The pure joy of sport, the degree of commitment, harkened back to an earlier era of American youth sports where everyone played. The scale of sport there was different. In a state with a population barely greater than 500,000, there were about 20,000 kids in high school, spread across a little over fifty high schools. With the exception of a handful of “mega-schools” in the Anchorage area, most high schools were small, with anywhere from thirty to one hundred kids.

With so few kids to choose from, anyone who showed up for practice and said they wanted to play, could play. It was a stark contrast with the modern elitist type of youth sports, where most kids are winnowed out early. In Alaska, as in the America of several decades earlier, most kids played sports year round. They just changed uniforms, equipment, and coaches, depending on the season.

Excerpted from Chapter Four of What Does Sarah Palin Believe? published by Harpeth River Press, written by Michael Patrick Leahy, Copyright 2008

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