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Pardon the Interpretation

By Dan Bauer, Submitted, 10/05/22, 12:15PM CDT


Disclaimer: All opinions expressed in Lockroom Logic are solely those of Dan Bauer and do not reflect the opinions of Wisconsin Prep Hockey or its partners. Dan presents his opinions based upon his lifetime of teaching and coaching experience and we present them unedited.

When you choose to be an athlete you make a conscious decision to put yourself out into the public spotlight. The magnitude of the spotlight increases as you climb from youth sports all the way to becoming a professional athlete. Your actions, performance and words will be interpreted by all those who watch you play. Your success and or failure will equally be judged. Aaron Rodgers is a great example as he has those who believe he is a great leader, the best quarterback to ever play the game and love everything he says or does. Others see him as a self-center, eccentric, over-paid, primadonna. You could argue both are accurate descriptions.

Writing in a public forum subjects your to the same personal perceptions and interpretations. Most of the pieces I write fall around one thousand word count. If I were describing a picture I would be right on task as we are told, pictures are worth a thousand words. As I craft each sentence with the help of spell check, I do try to paint a picture of my thoughts on any particular subject. Despite my efforts to effectively use all those words it is too often that one word or sentence will be all that some want to talk about. Like cracking your elbow on a counter top, the “crazy-bone” is activated.

In a world that does a lot of cheap talking about tolerance and virtue signaling about working together, I see the continued narrowing of our thought parameters. It is a challenging time to offer honest opinions, because most readers are only interested in hearing that which fits their streamlined agendas. A misplaced word or controversial sentence can ignite a firestorm of negative reaction. Having your own opinion seems to fit nicely into our “freedom of speech” concept, but some seem to want us all to have the same opinion.

Last spring I wrote a piece on Wausau East senior Eli Pagel and what I believed was an unusual act of loyalty in today’s epidemic of athletic driven open enrollments. My intent was to highlight Eli’s decision to take a backroad some would have quickly exited for a freeway. Unfortunately many saw it is a condemnation of open enrollment and the Wausau West hockey program. I cannot control the perception or interpretation of what I write. My frustration is with readers ignoring the entire article except for a single sentence.

There is no hiding my old school, traditional values. I miss reading the newspaper and still love the sound of a rotary dial phone. I grew up in an era where nobody left to play for another school unless your dad got a new job and you moved. Moms stayed at home. I am that old. I have coached single school programs, co-op programs had players leave and had players arrive from other schools. Like reading the sports page off my phone, I have become familiar and content with the way high school sports now functions. There is no other realistic path.

It is no secret that without co-op programs there would be no girl’s hockey under the WIAA umbrella. It has provided many with the opportunity to play without moving their entire family. It is a necessary part of the current state of affairs. It also comes with many challenges including lots of driving, often expensive participation fees and the loss of connection to your brick and mortar high school. No one can argue that fan support for co-op teams suffers from an identity crisis. I also don’t believe there would be much disagreement that every athlete would prefer their high school had their own standalone team. Co-ops were introduced as a stepping stone to allow single schools time to grow their programs. That clearly has not worked and in fact may be discouraging schools from building their own programs because of the reality of hockey’s financial burden on a district.

Unlike many political pundits who don’t use a paint brush, choosing instead to toss a bucket of stereotypes at their opposition, I have learned that open enrollment comes in many forms and for many reasons. Those who interpreted my words as a blanket condemnation of the 70,000 who have moved were simply seeing what they wanted to see. The observations I made were not opinions, but facts; the landscape of high school athletics has forever been changed. I absolutely believe that high school athletics was in a better place back in the seventies when everyone got to play for their high school. At the same time I understand there is better chance that newspapers will make a comeback than we will ever see high school sports return to that era.

That is neither a perception nor an interpretation; it is a reality that I completely understand.

The value of the high school athletic experience is unmistakable. I will forever defend the existence and sing the praises of the value of participating. Life is about choices and some are extremely difficult. As a coach the choice I am most concerned about is the choice to be an athlete, to step into that arena, to pursue excellence and face the fear failure. Making that decision to play trumps the how, when and why. Every player comes to your team with different set and size of luggage. Our job as coaches is to help them unpack it, sort, prioritize and maybe even buy some brand new luggage. My job will never be to judge or criticize how you got here. I am just glad you are participating!

Sometimes we are all guilty of seeing what we want to see. In Star Wars, Obi-Wan Kenobi warned Luke Skywalker that, “your eyes can deceive you”. So as the hockey season ramps up, this is a reminder that the contents of Lockeroom Logic are simply my opinions. And if you perceive me as an old school, outdated, over-the-hill, washed up coach, then my opinions shouldn’t bother you at all.

That is exactly 1,000 words, feel free to paint your own picture.

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Dan Bauer is a free-lance writer, retired teacher & hockey coach in Wausau, WI. You can contact him at

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