Sound Off: Tough league, but we did well

This is in response to sports editor Tim Adams’ column in the May 26 Whidbey News-Times, “No good, just bad and ugly.”

Mr. Adams, in your article about the Coupeville Athletic program you state that it was a disaster and our kids suffered from “having their heads handed to them game after game.” As the athletic director, coach, and parent of these athletes I have to whole-heartedly disagree with you on many levels.

First, your assumption about the travel time and expenses as the reasons for us entering the Cascade League are in error. When the state re-classified, our former league, the Northwest A League, became a 2B league with the exception of Coupeville and Friday Harbor. The reclassification created just five 1A schools in all of District One, which is the district in which we play in (the other 1A’s are Meridian, Lynden Christian, Nooksack Valley and King’s). Our first proposal was to form a 1A league with the above schools and Friday Harbor; the northern schools and King’s immediately rejected this. We discussed staying in our current league, but the overwhelming feeling among our former league members was that they didn’t want either Coupeville or Friday Harbor. We then applied to play in the Cascade League (which is the league we were in when I first arrived in Coupeville in 1994) but were initially denied because they didn’t want Coupeville and Friday Harbor (too much travel).

Our final approach was to go independent and try to schedule non-league games throughout the season, not a very viable solution but we were pretty much in a corner. After discussion with our coaches and administration, we re-applied to the Cascade League and were finally accepted.

That was the process, which took a year to get through, and was the best fit for our kids and programs. Did we realize it would be tough? Yes. Did we, and when I say we, I’m including our coaches, know that we would take some lumps along the way? Yes! But we also realized that playing tougher competition would benefit us come playoff time, and it certainly did!

You state that we lost games that we should have won. I wonder Mr. Adams, which games were those? Are you talking about games against Concrete, LaConner, Darrington, Chimacum, Nooksack Valley, Mount Vernon Christian, Sequim, or Friday Harbor? All schools that were former league members or 1A/2A levels and teams that we beat. Or are you talking about Archbishop Murphy, King’s, Lynden Christian, Meridian, Seattle Christian, or Cedarcrest? All schools that were state champions or top four finishers in soccer, basketball, football, track and field, baseball, and fastpitch?

During the playoffs, our football team lost to number 7 Friday Harbor, 12-7, our girls soccer team won their first round and fell to Meridian 3-1 in a great game, the girls basketball team beat Meridian then lost to the traditionally weak Lynden Christian girls and Nooksack Valley teams, the boys basketball team lost to another weak basketball program, Lynden Christian boys in overtime, our girls fastpitch team beat Meridian in round one then lost to number four Nooksack Valley and Friday Harbor, the boys soccer team beat Friday Harbor and lost to Meridian and Lynden Christian.

As for Friday Harbor, which stayed in our old league, how did they fare? No playoff wins in girls soccer, boys soccer, boys and girls basketball, volleyball, and no state qualifiers in track and field. Their football team won their first playoff game and lost the next one and their baseball team, also ranked number 7, didn’t make it out of the district tournament.

Did they win more games throughout the season than our programs? In three sports yes; did it help them when they went to the playoffs? No, in fact, our programs were more successful, overall, than Friday Harbor, who played in a 2B league. So I wonder, Mr. Adams, which school and programs benefited more? The answer would be Coupeville!

Mr. Adams, you could have written an article that discussed the ways our programs grew and how hard our kids fought throughout the year. You could have chosen to write about the successes of our programs in playing substantially better in the latter parts of our seasons and how our kids began to rise to the level of their opponents. You could have chosen to write about our playoff successes. Instead, you chose to write about our teams “getting their heads handed to them” and how detrimental this year was to our kids and programs.

As someone who has invested much more time and energy into these kids and who has had to go through this year as both a parent and coach, I would have to say while frustrations exist, I couldn’t be more proud of our kids or coaches for the job that they’ve done. Our kids and coaches deserved better from you and I would hope that in your haste to highlight the negative, that, in the future, you would focus on the positives of our programs and celebrate those!

Willie Smith is athletic director at Coupeville Middle/High School.