A sparse population impacts Wyoming in many obvious ways as well as some that are much less noticeable. One of the quieter influences of a small citizenry is found in the perceptions of those who migrate from outside our borders.
As an energy rich geological realm with schools, the Cowboy State is home to herds of migrating workers and teachers who can be here today and gone tomorrow, yet high traffic, short-term inhabitants leave their mark on many communities. Like everything else, the impact of temporary citizens can be good or bad, yet in many places, and especially in smaller towns, the residuals have had a tendency to be negative.
The problem with Wyoming’s small populace is that outsiders occasionally consider themselves as being from the real world when arriving on the doorstep of a what they perceive as Hickville, USA; that is, the human nature involved is that those from larger, more sophisticated states tend to believe they have much to offer a rural, “under-privileged” region. This can be fine when competent, well-meaning newcomers get involved in city governments, or even schools, but there are times when it can be much less than desirable in any arena. Perhaps the most evident, harmful intrusions come in the realms of children and especially in activities that involve youth sports.
People who roll into Wyoming from other states are prone to believe their past experiences are better than those of the indigenous folk around them. New arrivals believe that the services offered to youth in the land from whence they came must be far superior to those provided by a backward, western state. Based on this type of general, incorrect assumptions, transplants tend to hop into local sports forums with zealous ideas and ideals that liken them more to athletic missionaries than child advocates.
Many times this outside assistance is appreciated and helpful, yet just as often the “helpers” are motivated by a not-so-hidden agenda to specifically better their children, elevate their own stature in a new environment, or both. It is a safe wager that many Wyoming communities have at some time felt the negative effects of an external invasion that left locals wondering, “What was wrong with how we were doing it?”
It is natural that people get locked into routine. It is just as natural that newcomers surrounded by people in set lifestyle patterns will feel anxiety and look for ways to reduce that feeling. That search to mold an environment so they fit can unfortunately produce a strong, social presence that barges into the activities of children in a manner that is not good for children at all. New people with strong personalities and self-serving goals have a tendency to create divisiveness, which in turns conjures an adverse community disease known as politics. Politics is annoyance in large cities. In smaller communities, it can be lethal to local attitudes and youth programs, thereby making it harmful to kids.
The cure for potential community agitation, aside from leaving Little Leagues, Pee Wee Football , American Legion Baseball, and even school boards in local hands, is as simple as not assuming that what happens beyond Wyoming’s borders in bigger and better. After all, one of the major attractions of this state is that it is vastly different from urban America.
Wyomingites also need to remember that many people and programs inherent to Wyoming are efficient and commendable. Joe Legerski, the highly respected head coach of the University of Wyoming Women’s Basketball program is a Rock Springs native who includes Wyoming girls on his roster. Anyone who is unaware of the recent successes of Cowgirl Basketball needs to come out from underneath their athletic rock.
Another prime example of homegrown excellence is Tagg Lain, manager of the Cheyenne Post 6 baseball team, who just piloted his squad to a ninth Wyoming “AA” State Championship in ten years. Lain was born in Worland, lived in Riverton until the third grade when he moved to Laramie for a year, then settled in Cheyenne where he graduated. He even played in the baseball program he now leads. Without being raised in a big city atmosphere, Lain still learned to achieve personal athletic excellence and inspire it in the youth of Wyoming.
There are many more in-state success stories aside from Lain and Legerski, but the point is that excellence is homegrown just as often- or perhaps even more often- than it is imported.
All this is not to say that outside assistance cannot be beneficial or desirable. It can be. However, no community should casually hand over the keys to any kid’s kingdom merely because someone is from Minnesota, Michigan, California, or some other booming hotbed of humanity. People tend to see what they are looking for, so it will always be good policy to look for quality at home.