All-stars can count on us

It was a short while back that Dale Burgman continued to contemplate the possibility while a small crowd filed out of the Butte High Gym.

For as much as the rest of Montana seems to like to degrade Butte and its recent economic struggles, it sure doesn’t seem to mind letting The Mining City do the work, particularly in regard to the hospitable host assignments.

These duties, associated much with all-star recognitions, are not so much drudgery, but activities welcomed to town with arms spread wide. The East-West Shrine Game football classic is now a traveling road show, due to stop, for the second time, in Butte this summer after The Mining City re-lifted it to exalted status two years ago, drawing record crowds and fund-raising.

The game has regained the importance its beneficiaries deserve.

Weather and wavering turnout numbers ended the Jim Patrick Treasure State Classic softball tournament just prior to last spring and hopes are here that the state’s senior girls will again be accommodated in this sport, preferably in an area such as this that does it so well.

The Southwest Montana Basketball Classic boys’ and girls’ hoops doubleheader at Montana Tech each March has become a promise of good, entertaining ball for the region during its few years of existence.

Class C football players have found an all-star home at Montana Tech every June with former head Oredigger coach Bob Green being a driving, influential force in the honor contest, one that has introduced many a prospect to the good education offered at the campus.

Volleyball, though, languishes. The Class AA girls had just had their senior all-star match and Burgman pondered possibilities. Billings was host to the match for some years before deciding it didn’t want to anymore, Burgman noted. A couple of years ago, it looked defunct with no takers willing to find the time, space or inclination.

Somebody from somewhere else turned to Burgman at a AA meeting and inquired as to whether he thought Butte would be willing to put one on for the girls — on about a week’s notice or so.

Burgman reported back, made calls, and Advantage Butte and local businesses stepped up to not only play host to the match at Butte High, with equal generosity put forth by school district personnel and the city’s volleyball officials pool and table workers, but to also provide the honorees a luncheon and lodging.

More than one smiling parent was heard to mutter something like “Butte came through again,” or “You can count on Butte,” while the evening festivities played out for some of the very best girls’ volleyball players in the state.

Burgman, the Butte High head coach, though wondered about Class A, and Class B and Class C. Havre is one site having tried to organize such an event for the smaller classifications, and with mixed success. For whatever reason, gaining consistency in the effort has been difficult.

The state volleyball tournament has been an all-class production in Bozeman for some years now, similar to the state wrestling meet every year in Billings. Each class gathers its field at its own corner of the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse on the Montana State University campus and four matches are held at a time through the tourney’s championship rounds. The girls can’t help wonder how they’d match up on the same space.

Consistency and decision is what is most needed to reel volleyball to the stage front, Burgman said.

“Let’s schedule this thing on the Thursday night after the state tournament,” he said, noting a Thursday date in November resolves scheduling conflicts with any other prep championship activity that might be taking place during the time frame. “We should be looking at an AA-A-B-C (participation).”

Maybe do it as a short tourney with each classification forming a team, or do it as a best-of-five match with the top players from all classes divided into two teams, maybe with regional affiliations.

“They’ve been keeping that A-B-C one going,” Burgman said. “Apathy (all around) disappoints me. Let’s don’t take this away from the kids.”

Such a gathering might be magnetic to college scouts, too, the Bulldog coach said. He added that the lack of attention given Montana volleyball players by their own in-state college coaches bothers him. A center stage for displaying the home talent, might be beneficial to the programs as well as the prospects.

Giving such chances is close to Burgman’s heart, but he admitted, too, that he is not so much a fan of the current competitive set-up for prep volleyball in the state. He said he would prefer to see Class AA go to divisional tournaments for advancing qualifiers to a singular state Class AA tourney.

The immensity of the activity of an all-class state tourney as now takes place in Bozeman might create a larger and louder buzz, but each match going on might very well also distract some attention from any of the other three going on at the same time. Each match, each team, each girl warrants its own special place, spotlight, in anything so important as a state tournament, it would seem.

It might be another project to undertake. Saving some all-star status and a place for showcasing such prowess might be of a more immediate concern.

Fellow Montanans might like to tweak our noses a little bit when we’re down, but they also seem to realize we can take it, and, so importantly, that they, too, can count on us.