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It is an age-old question — why do we have sports in our schools?

The same reason we have music, theater, debate and other activities.

Over the years, more than one young person has shared his or her story about how sports made them a better person, boosted their self-confidence, helped them get through school.

Mazama junior Natanee Campbell is a good example.

“It’s nice to give me something to start my life with,” Campbell said the other day during a break from her competition at a wrestling tournament. “Wrestling pulled me out of a bad place in my life, and I can’t ask for more.”

Need the question go any further?

Campbell is one of several girls wrestling with a chance to place, again, at the Oregon School Activities Association championships.

More important, as many others have said of their involvement in sports, is how it helped them focus on their lives, to more forward, to find more reasons to move forward in life.

“I know how to eat better … how to exercise better … how to keep my body in shape,” Campbell said. “Wrestling had helped me with my mental health. It has given me something to succeed in. It gives me a really good way to get my emotions out.

“It’s my passion.”

Like many, Campbell is unaware of the history of girls wrestling in the area.

Actually, the same can be said for the boys.

It can be said of athletes in all our sports.

A case in point is Bonanza’s Cheryl New, the first girl to ever compete in the OSAA state championships. Had New not been incredibly ill, it is likely she would have placed in the tournament, having dropped both of her matches in close decisions.

New gained a scholarship for college, graduated and has had a life she likely would never have considered had it not been for a coach, his love of wrestling and the opportunity to compete.

There have been plenty of wrestlers and track and field athletes who have found a niche through sports, something that helped them focus and go on to some form of post-secondary education to make their lives better.

It is not just individual sports, either.

There have been, from area schools, soccer players, baseball players, softball players, basketball players from the area who have gone on because someone cared enough to guide them into a sport where they could find success, and use that success after they finished high school.

There have been hockey players who have gone on to play at a higher level, and then to college.

A list of young athletes who went on to become doctors, lawyers, teachers, business owners, and more, likely could be compiled quickly. For many students who found school boring, athletics helped them graduate from high school and go on to their varied careers.

Steve Matthies is Herald and News sports editor emeritus. He can be reached at 541-885-4411, or at smatthies@heraldandnews.com.