Luke Graham makes a compelling argument about the size disadvantages facing smaller schools in his article “Class 4A numbers show how special Battle Mountain soccer run was” (Nov. 17 Steamboat Today).
Although I agree Battle Mountain’s state soccer championship was special, I respectfully disagree with Graham's assertion that school size is the driver to state championships. As an alternative, I propose that Battle Mountain’s championship season is a reflection of a paradigm shift in student-athlete participation — specifically, the advent (unfortunately) of single-sport specialists. Furthermore, I think there is a higher statistical correlation between championships and single-sport participation than school size.
I do not have statistics, but my intuition tells me that the rosters of recent state championship teams, regardless of size or location, comprise student-athletes dedicated to that one sport. Consider the size-to-championships ratio of Mullen or Valor Christian, comparatively small schools with a lot of championship banners. I speculate that their championship rosters mostly have single-sport specialists. Battle Mountain’s championship roster has few (three) multisport athletes.
The greatest impact of the single-sport specialist, in my opinion, is the effect on sister sports, i.e. same-season sports like soccer and football or track and baseball. The depth of the student-athlete pool (school size) coupled with the single-sport athlete (paradigm shift) will make it almost statistically impossible for smaller schools to compete concurrently for state championships in sister sports or even other season sports, like soccer and basketball.
I emphasize “almost” because I am a hopeless romantic who roots for the underdog, the overachiever and the undersized. My favorite movie is “Hoosiers,” my favorite teams are the (tie) 2004 Boston Red Sox and the 1980 Glenwood Springs High School football team and my fondest memory is of the 2012 Battle Mountain High School state soccer championship!
Regardless of size, whenever you have dedicated athletes willing to sacrifice personal glory for team success, you have a chance — like the Hoosiers, the 2004 Red Sox, the 1980 Demons and this year’s Battle Mountain Class 4A state soccer champions.