The power of rivalries
Rivalries are not just games; they are so much more. They are not just another mark on the schedule; they're much deeper than that. The stories behind rivalries are history, traditions even.
Leading up to a rivalry game, the campus or team has a completely different vibe and culture. There is so much more focus. The practices are harder. Rivalry games may not be the most important games on the schedule, but to a team, they usually mean the most.
"A great rivalry game is more than just a normal football game," said Wheatland Union High School varsity football lineman coach Jason Soderlund. "It gives us something to work harder for and to stand up to."
These are the games that make or break teams, both mentally and sometimes in the bigger playoff picture.
Rivalries are usually set due to an excessive amount of close games. The two teams are equal in skill and ability, which always makes for an incredible game that is usually close — the games that have you holding your breath to the last play. The types of games that are tear-jerkers all the way until the final clock reads all zeroes. These are the games that teams prepare for all season and the games that hurt the most to lose.
"Rivalries have been dividing and uniting people since the beginning of human kind. Our local Yuba-Sutter rivalries are full of tradition and give us a sense of community and solidarity," said Cy Olsen, WUHS activities director and head wrestling coach.
Having a rival leads to a new environment on campus. A new culture even, the mutual feeling toward anything helps to unite any group of any type, let alone students who want to be a part of something.
This unity brings the group into a family almost; they feel a connection with one another. They have something that they agree on, something to cheer for together and something to be excited about.
Athletic rivalries span all levels: Each echelon has its own, and each varies in its seriousness. From Pee-Wees all the way to pros, there are rivalries. Both women's and men's teams have them. Rivalries do not pertain to one specific group or category; they are all-inclusive.
If you have ever played a sport competitively, you have most likely participated in a rivalry game; it's everywhere. The added pressure makes you perform differently: sometimes better, sometimes worse. It's what you do with this pressure that can shape you, not only as an athlete but your character as a whole.
Having something to work toward and something to give your all to whenever it comes up can make you mentally stronger. Rivalries have the ability to shape you for the rest of your life into a more complete individual.
Rafe Smith is a senior at Wheatland Union High School. His column appears every six weeks in Education.