"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Monday, April 24, 2017

Alan Hendrickson was endearing gentleman

(Swift County M-N image)
We lost one of the Knights of St. Urho last week. Alan Hendrickson is now prancing across those wrestling mats in the sky. He died just days after I became aware of his illness. It's an illness where unfortunately there is little wiggle room in terms of how long you'll live. We are all mortal and end up meeting our maker.
Hendrickson was the popular coach of the Morris High School wrestling program for a long time. It was the era before hockey in an indoor arena. It was the days of the "District 21 Tournament" when the small towns out here could sustain their own programs. Today we see all these combined programs. Our local wrestling team has the cumbersome, and I feel unwieldy, name of "MAHACA." It gets pronounced as if it's a word.
Hendrickson was coach of the "MHS Tigers." I'm not sure I ever saw a match until the pep band was required to play. I'm sure that was political: having the pep band play for a wrestling match. Pep bands were challenged everywhere as the number of athletic programs increased. The teams all demanded equal treatment, of course.
I can remember when UMM had a pep band playing for basketball games at the old P.E. annex. Once the women's programs got going, there was a justifiable demand for equal treatment, but those poor musicians could only devote a limited amount of time to these commitments. It got to where there was no pep band.
UMM at its outset had a fight song that was composed by my father. I wish that song could be revived now and then just for its archival value. The song did not have an introduction, so you had to watch the director if you wanted to sing it from the start. I don't think my father's "UMM Hymn" had an introduction either. I guess that was one of my father's traits, not to emphasize introductions. The creators of song often have their own particular traits, like Neil Diamond starting out his songs with the title of the song.
As I remember my high school years, I remember wrestling as the "other" sport in winter. Today with all the widened opportunities, I'm not sure any such judgment is made. Post-season basketball games at the P.E. Center could attract large, loud and wild followings, whereas today the fans have to travel so far right at the start of tournament play. There are so many activities, their supporters all get divided up.
It's quaint to think of the old full gym with that cacophony of sound. I found it a little troubling at times. So much emotional investment in a kids' game. I wondered about all the pressure these kids were feeling, to carry the banner of their towns as if they were warriors. I wondered if they might get psychologically damaged. In the meantime, I was just an observer, consistent with being a lifelong journalist.
At times I wrote as a stringer for the Morris Sun Tribune. Today the Sun Tribune wouldn't touch my work. Ah, the ebbs and flows of life.
Randy Thraen was in my high school class and he made the state tournament under coach Al Hendrickson. Randy's wrestling career ended on a downward note and I'm quite certain why: he worked too hard to lose weight. I thought that was an abhorrent aspect of the sport. Losing weight has nothing to do with developing your skills in a sport. It can hurt your ability to mentally focus.
I remember Randy wearing sweat clothes for phy. ed class as a way of getting pounds off. Our P.E. teacher was Roger Snaser for a time. He had been a star basketball player for UMM. He stood out with his tall physique. He had a "punishment" in phy. ed class that would be unheard of today, for boys to "wear a girls P.E. uniform!" Oh my, the sexism. The world of education continually passes out of one era with its values and into another. I was once shared with a friend: "the trail of education is littered with the bodies of education professionals who couldn't make the transition from one educational era to the next."
It's interesting how I as a young person could see and understand these eras as they flowed, while some adults in the system failed to.
This town was dragged through an unnecessary controversy in the late 1980s. Many people were demanding more quality in extracurricular, leaning more toward the AAU model, but what it was really about was accountability.
No one spoke a bad word about Alan Hendrickson, not during that time or in any other time. He had a fine sense of humor that was expressed in a deadpan way, making it even more funny. He was very perceptive and practical. He was gentle. He was effective and loved as the wrestling coach. It was a sport that seemed like the red-haired stepchild of winter sports.
Wrestling attracted boys many of whom - let's be frank - had a rather "ruffian" image. At the same time, these ruffians could surprise you by building a grandfather clock in industrial arts class. They were in a different league from me in that regard.
Why was wrestling developed as the "second" sport in winter? I theorize that relatively speaking, wrestling is inexpensive. Why does sports overall get so much emphasis? I think that way back when, sports was seen as a way for kids to combat boredom, in an age when there were so few alternatives. Today because of the tech/digital age, boredom seems to have been completely conquered. So much so, we hear about data overload and distracted driving.
And yet sports flourishes as much as ever, more so actually. I'm troubled at times because I feel the non-sports kids can be made to feel insignificant. I know those kids are out there. I look at issue after issue of the West Central Tribune with its sports section with the usual prominent photos of sports kids, and I really wonder about our sense of priorities. We make heroes out of these sports kids, many of whom excel simply because they were born with athletic genes.
Al Hendrickson was the kind of guy who valued all students, no doubt about it. I wish I had had him as a teacher instead of a certain other teacher whose name I won't type here. Al had a heart of gold, whether in the classroom, by the wrestling mat or at the Eagles Club as a member of the "Knights of St. Urho." We will miss him in all roles. Toward the end of his life I'd chat with him, his wife Dolora and maybe Dave Holman (the indefatigable Swede) at the McDonald's restaurant. The banter was always fun.
I'll close out this post by quoting an inside joke I had with Al, based on an anecdote from his background: "I always thought highly of you, Al."
- Brian Williams, morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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