LAURA LOWDER: Pinecrest Problem Deeper Than Sports
I generally support arts programs in the public schools rather than athletics. But with Pinecrest football, I've developed a few opinions.
Part of the problem is Pinecrest itself. When I was a little girl, my neighbors often took me to Aberdeen High School football games. Their daughter was a cheerleader; neighbors, friends' sons, kids from church made up the team. Everyone knew pretty much everyone else in the community, including the kids on the team, and it was a community concern to support the school and the kids.
With the opening of Pinecrest in the fall of 1969, the community aspect of the school disappeared. The emotional investment that comes when a school is a product of the local community disappeared.
In fact, Pinecrest has always been at the heart of some sort of controversy, because it forcibly removed kids from community schools, community governance, and community-wide personal investment. In PHS's football program, we're seeing only the visible fruits of a long-term problem. The present crisis shouldn't surprise or dismay anyone who grew up during those years of transition away from local schools.
I don't know how to address that problem. Sure, Richmond County is a consolidated high school that has maintained immense community support from its inception. However, Richmond has always been a more rural county, experiencing a greater interconnectedness between its various communities through farming, church and civic organizations that Moore County has not had in my lifetime.
Moore County is a wonderfully diversified region; however, our diversity can be, at times, a liability rather than an asset. This is particularly true in the southern end of our county, where Pinehurst/Southern Pines have always been squared off against Aberdeen/West End in terms of cultural and sociopolitical climates.
The North Moore area, and to only a lesser extent the Union Pines area, is more homogenous and integrated as a community and has not experienced the isolation and resentments attached to Pinecrest over the years.
Another problem is that we have a whole population of kids now who didn't grow up farming or in blue-collar families and communities, who are instead accustomed to being indulged and catered to in a variety of ways. I had one person tell me that the turnout for football tryouts earlier in the summer was quite good; but as the practice season wore on, kids began to disappear because they didn't want to work out in the heat or otherwise be inconvenienced or discomforted -- or their mothers didn't want them to be.
I don't know how we're going to fix the problems I see at the root of Pinecrest football's crisis. We have a good, committed, intelligent athletic director in John Bucholz. I imagine this situation is frustrating for a man who has devoted his adult life to trying to help kids succeed not only on the athletic field, but in multiple dimensions of their lives.
Which brings me to the reason why I want to see Pinecrest athletics experience a turnaround: So often in the schools, kids are fed a variety of mixed messages. They're told that "self-esteem" is more important than the honest means of achieving self-respect.
Teachers are expected to wheedle their kids into "learning," whether or not the kids have any motivation or self-discipline, and education is too often confused with entertainment. Frankly, our educational system (and this is not just at Pinecrest -- I see it originating in Raleigh, or perhaps in Princeton, N.J., whence come so many of our academic fads and theories) tells the kids they can get something for nothing.
The athletic field, by contrast, is one true-to-life experience where the kids participating can know that success is contingent upon the effort invested, where winning or losing, passing or failing, depends almost solely upon their own effort and diligence in decision-making every minute they are on the field.
Finally, I do not see this situation as the responsibility of Superintendent Purser, Principal County, or Coach B. I see it as the responsibility of those in the community who -- by design or default -- have control over the situation. That begins with parents and extends to neighbors, friends and others in the community.
Either we develop some sense of investment in Pinecrest High School, or all the administrative or bureaucratic maneuvering in the world will be a total waste of time.
Laura Lowder, a member of the Pinecrest Class of '75, lives in Jackson Springs.
More like this story