When the game is over and the players of both schools have said their ritual goodbyes – two lines passing each other, hands touching, “Good game, good game” – coach Katie Hanatow gathers her girls in a tight circle on the field for a brief motivational wrap-up: “It’s not the game we wanted, not the score we wanted, but they make us better by challenging us, and everybody stayed positive.”
Sports are about winning and losing and the lessons that come in between. If you ask Fall Mountain student athletes, they will come up with all the right qualities they teach: “Dedication, determination, competitiveness, confidence in yourself and in your team.”
But senior student Clay, who plays football, basketball and baseball, has a more personal reason, too: “Most of my friends I wouldn’t even have if it wasn’t for sports.”
Fall Mountain’s Volleyball coach Missy Swift says: “One of the biggest reasons I love to coach is because I know how important sports were to me when I was a kid.
“I was very quiet and reserved, I just thrived on the competition. I was never the standout on my team, but I was consistent and, frankly, oftentimes smarter. I was always in the right place at the right time. I could see it happening in my head.
“As I went through high school, I was academically lazy. If I had not wanted to be able to play volleyball, basketball and softball, I wouldn’t have performed as well as I did. You can’t participate in athletics if you don’t have your grades. It was a big deal!”
The photo of “her” volleyball girls sitting at the sidelines, looking pained, brings back “the struggle of a season. We play big, big schools. It’s an uphill battle for us at times. And we can either roll over and cry and let them beat us up, or we can dig in and fight with them. That’s the attitude that I’m trying to help them with.
“They never gave up at any time throughout the season, when it could have been so easy for them to do that. Because they cared so much about each other, that they couldn’t do that to their teammates.”
The booklet You'll Hear Us Roar documents the importance of sports in American high school education and in American culture by featuring the Fall Mountain Wildcats Athletics program of Fall Mountain Regional High School, a small public school that teaches children from five surrounding towns in rural south New Hampshire: Acworth, Alstead, Charlestown, Langdon, and Walpole.