Magazines, newspapers and the internet are loaded with stories of inspiration about someone who has overcome the odds to achieve some semi-miraculous feat to win some championship or conquer their personal Everest.

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Freelance Writer
Paul Marchant is a rancher and freelance writer in southern Idaho. Follow Paul Marchant on X (@pm...

At the beginning of every year, old retired athletes make bank as inspirational speakers at corporate retreats and conventions.

Don’t get me wrong. These are all good things. There’s nothing wrong with trying to better yourself, and the new year is a good time to take stock and reload. Here’s the trouble, and it’s probably news to nobody: It’s not easy.

I’d be completely out of debt and own the King Ranch if I had a nickel for every time I’ve promised myself that I’d rise up to the challenge of self-improvement after being inspired by some tale of an underdog who worked his tail off to whoop the naysayers and claim some championship. But dang if I haven’t found out that inspiration doesn’t always translate so nicely into real life.

Several years ago, I helped coach our local high school boys’ basketball team. It was a pretty fun ride, and I loved doing it. The experiences of those few years offered up plenty of tragedy and triumph stories.


It’s been 10 years since I coached, but a week before the basketball season started this winter, a good friend I coached with a decade ago asked me if I’d help him with the girls’ junior varsity team.

Oakley, Idaho, is probably not much different than most rural towns. It takes a lot of volunteer work to make everything tick, and you sometimes have to settle for what you can get. I have way too much going on, and no extra time to spare, so the obvious answer was, “Of course. I’d love to help.”

Our fifth game of the season was against the two-time defending state champions. You might think that would be a formidable task. As can happen in high school sports, but especially in small schools, the availability of athletic talent ebbs and flows every year.

This year is a down year for the champs. Our JV and varsity teams both won by a combined score of 73-9.

Girls’ basketball can sometimes be painful to watch, and some games are excruciating. No amount of inspirational speech was going to help our opponents win those games.

Obviously, the past has proven that their coaches are good coaches, but the natural talent of past seasons simply is not available this year. It’s probably going to be a long, tough season for the defending champs.

Even if they do everything to the best of their abilities, they are not going to win many games. I can flat-out guarantee that they won’t repeat as state champions.

But you know what? That’s OK. They are going to learn that life is sometimes tough to handle, but it can be handled, nonetheless. Now there’s something that can translate into real life.

I’ve gone through calving seasons where I thought I’d done everything right to prepare for any potential wreck, and I’ve still been blindsided by a scourge of the demon scours from the netherworld. Every day, all day, for two wicked months has been spent doctoring sick calves and watching them die.

It takes the wind out of your sails in a hurry. It sucks the life out of your “can-do spirit.” It’s more than the devastating economic impact. It’s indescribably tough to get beaten up mentally, emotionally and spiritually, day after day, knowing that you can’t fix a dead critter. But you try your best to save every one of them, even if you know that you’ve lost before you even start.

I hope such calving seasons are as rare as the crazy-high markets of the past couple of years. Even so, such troubles are where the real inspiration can come from – much more so than a speech from Joe Montana.

So with that in mind, here’s wishing you either a trouble-free New Year or one that kicks you in the teeth every day. May you be inspired by whatever hits you.

Happy New Year.  end mark

Paul Marchant