After the Whistle: With sports participation down, more schools turn to co-oping

After The Whistle

Some sports teams have gone from playing each other to playing together.

That’s because in recent years, athletic directors and coaches have noticed fewer and fewer students participating in sports.

“The big emphasis for us is providing the kids an opportunity to play. Whether it be one kid or 20 kids, it doesn’t matter,” said Nick Klemisch, Garrison superintendent.

Co-oping for sports is nothing new for the Garrison Troopers.

The school co-oped with Max in the past for football and with Velva for wrestling for the past two decades.

Now, they’re partnering with them for a second time.

“With football, our numbers have really struggled. Whether it be a consistent coach in there or just simply have numbers of kids. A couple years ago, we actually canceled our varsity season due to numbers of kids,” said Klemisch.

“Leading up to it, there was talks about not having a season. But, I mean, I wasn’t really worried about it. I knew we’d work something out and knew we’d scrape enough kids together. But, this opportunity came along to go with Velva so that was amazing,” said Ty Iglehart, running back/safety.

And, it was just in time.

“13 kids we thought would maybe play and we were moving to a 9-man roster this year. When we say ‘thought’ that means we’re begging, borrowing, stealing kids and getting them to play and probably putting them in places that would be precarious for them and more likelihood for injury,” said Klemisch.

But even that number was too ambitious.

Only five were going out for football.

In early June, the two schools submitted paperwork to the North Dakota High School Activities Association for an emergency co-op.

On July 28, they received the news it was approved.

“You should’ve been there! I was jumping up off the walls. I still don’t believe it now that I’m playing with them. It was just so unexplainable how happy I was. I didn’t really believe it at all.”Caden Chadwick, lineman) “I’m really happy. They brought over some good athletes and excited to get with them and have them in our system and learn our plays and stuff,” Iglehart said.

“Kind of a ‘perfect storm’ for both school districts because we’re able to come together. A lot of our kids already know each other through different aspects. Whether it be baseball, football, basketball. I mean we kind of interchange and we’re always together anyway on a lot of things. So to me, it worked out really well for us to have that opportunity to come together,” said Klemisch.

But, there’s a catch, only senior Ty Iglehart can play on varsity.

The remaining four have to play on JV.

“We’re all getting acquainted with each other, and the program and the way things work. But, really like what we’re seeing,” said Larry sandy, head coach/athletic director.

“They’ve been really nice to us and I just feel a part of the team. It’s been awesome,” said Iglehart said.

These five Troopers travel two hours for the opportunity to play a sport they love.

“For me, it doesn’t really matter because I get to go play football,” said Iglehart said.

“It’s just great to see his excitement and his enthusiasm to want to play the game,” said Klemisch.

“There’s a lot of miles in between the two cities here and schools. But, you know, this kids are going to find out, you know, is the game, is this opportunity what they really want? And do they have the discipline and the desire to actually stay with it? And we hope they do,” Sandy said.

But these boys aren’t the only ones making the trip on Friday nights.

“A lot of the Garrison community has come too. Like all my past friends. I’ve had just a lot of people come watch me play in Velva and it’s a long drive for them, so it feels really good,” Iglehart said.

As the Aggies continue to find success under the Friday night lights, Klemisch hopes this will motivate more athletes to put on the pads in the future.

“That’s not really our driving force behind it, but it definitely doesn’t hurt matters. I know winning does definitely help breed more people wanting to play the game,” said Klemisch.

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