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Sports

Volume 65 Number 5

When the final score is not about the score

by Mary Dawson - 2015-03-19


In sports, there are winners and losers. Scoreboards and record books, however, don’t always reflect who really wins. Someone may lose according to the scoreboard, but in reality, they still could win so much more.

Sports allow people to lose, yet still win...such as the chance to discover a newfound hope, and most important, the chance to change perceptions. The story of the McFarland High School cross country team fully captures all of the intangibles that sports can give to people, more than just in the sense of victories and trophies.

The story of how a small California high school, located in a Central Valley farming community between Bakersfield and Visalia, that had never before fielded a cross country team, could qualify for the state CIF championships in its first year of competition is not new. It actually happened in 1987, 28 years ago.

Thanks to Hollywood, however, people are now learning about this inspirational story. If you haven’t seen the movie McFarland, USA, starring Kevin Costner as the coach, you need to go to a movie theater and see it ASAP.

This column is not a movie review, though. I want to talk about the story behind the movie...a story that proves a sport can help people “win” at something more than just a game.

On an individual level, cross country gave the McFarland team members a new hope for their futures. It gave them hope that they could have a better life than their parents had. All six runners went on to college, something that wouldn’t have been possible if cross country hadn’t been in their lives.

On a grander scale, cross country gave a small town a boost of big hope. When the six-member team traveled to compete in the state finals, they were not just representing themselves; they were representing the town of McFarland. The team gave the McFarland community a great reason to rally together.

It was a chance to change perceptions. Many of the kids from McFarland could often be found helping their parents earn income by picking in the fields.

Most other high schools never saw the McFarland kids in any light other than as a person from a small town, working in the fields.

When the boys started running and beating big-name schools, they shattered the perceptions that they couldn’t be more than just field pickers.

They showed how the discipline gained from hard work picking in the fields became the foundation for the mental toughness that cross country requires for success.

The McFarland High cross country team proved to people that their small town should be known as more than just a place for farm laborers to toil. They proved that it is actually a place filled with hard-working people who have hopes and dreams of accomplishments of their own.


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people, hope, story, mcfarland, high, school, cross, country, team, just, small, movie, sport, gave, town, field


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