You’ve seen it in movies, and in plays. A parent or grandparent exclaiming, “It’s just a phase” as a rejoinder to another adult’s expression of much anxiety for the change, perceived as – but not necessarily – bad among adolescents and young adults.

 Life imitates art. I’ve caught myself using the response when discussing the behavior of our young people.

I believe, in the case of high school sports - for the Wawasee Warriors’ collective athletic programs in particular - one could say, “It’s just a phase.”

It’s also essential to scratch the surface for a closer look to whether the school’s recent won-loss performances are perceived as hitting a rough patch based on league standings, but it’s not actually as big a problem as it appears.

Let’s walk through this.

The all-sports championships among boys’ and girls’ sports for the Northern Lakes Conference (NLC) are used as a metric to award all-sports honors to the school(s) in the conference based on awarding two-point tranches inverted to a school’s finish among ten boys’ sports and nine girls’ sports in the NLC standings.

Wawasee finished the 2021-2022 scholastic sports year in eighth place among in each gender’s all-sports point total. I’m guessing there are four likely hot takes among sports fans’ minds outside the Warriors’ district because we adult scholastic sports fans tend to forget 1) these athletes are kids, and 2) these athletes are participating in team/character-building activities with lifelong benefits beyond conference won-loss standings.

Hot take number 1 – The Warriors need to exit the NLC. This is truly insane.

Wawasee’s membership is in the perfect place geographically (hmmm… they have the biggest lakes among the Northern Lakes, too), and competitively. They share community experiences (church, workplace, recreation) with parents and students among Goshen, Wa-Nee, and Warsaw school districts.

Wawasee  - a constructive and natural rival among those schools - belongs in the NLC. They have NLC-caliber facilities to boot.

Wawasee baseball finished sixth in the NLC in both baseball and softball this past spring. The Warriors, however, advanced to the regionals in baseball, and to the sectional finals in softball when they were matched against their appropriate enrollment class (3A).

The girls’ basketball squad gave sectional favorite Tippecanoe Valley fits for three quarters in the tourney’s semifinal this past winter until Valley started making buckets and playing improved defense to eek by the Warriors. For what it’s worth, Valley lost to West Noble, a team with a record of 6-17 entering the fray the following night.

This reference to a Three Rivers Conference (TRC)-NLC matchup leads me to…

Hot take number 2 – Wawasee should join the TRC. Absolutely not.

The Warriors would not benefit from playing any of the TRC’s Wabash County schools in football, and although Maconaquah, Peru, Valley, and – in the future – Manchester – would make some interesting boys’ hoops competition, the TRC is also fraught with too many small programs that would make Warrior fans feel like they were watching the kids in the skeleton suits beating up the Karate Kid.

The Warriors benefit from the tough NLC field when tournament time arrives based on a few of my examples. Wawasee finished in the bottom three in boys’ NLC standings among six of the ten point-eligible sports while the girls finished in the bottom three of the standing among seven of the nine point-eligible sports, but the post-season was a bright spot among some sports.

Pockets of good athletes seem to come and go among public schools with medium-sized enrollment. Wawasee is also comprised of three hamlets - Milford, Syracuse, and North Webster – where the driving distance and available diversions among big and small lakes can create challenges for team chemistry.

Let’s look, on the other hand, at the individual-event sports.

Golf (boys/girls - fifth place), swimming (boys - fourth place, girls - third place), track and field (third place shot put, Emma Yoder), and wrestling (second place, and second place in the sectional) yield better results.

Hot take number 3 – Wawasee should join the Northeast Corner Conference. Please see hot-take number 2, and sorry for my spit-take.

Hot take number 4 – Wawasee should join the Northeast 8 Conference. This makes no sense even if gas prices decrease. Personally, I’d rather travel to Mishawaka than to anywhere in Wells County or Dekalb County in dicey winter weather. I’ll leave it right there

In the meantime, Warrior sports - football, boys’ basketball, and softball teams in particular - have young squads with solid returning numbers who have scores to settle among the NLC field in the coming sports year. Wrestling, and swimming will once again be formidable foes, too.

The athletic department, staff, and coaches are also hard-working and committed toward the school’s collective athletic vision.

I’ve lived in Kosciusko County for 24 of my 26 years as a Michiana resident, and I’ve seen the sinewave of won-loss cycles among other area teams as well. I am certain It’s just a phase.