This past week our high school students won on the scoreboard (gymnastics won sectionals and qualified for the state meet; we had an individual state wrestling champ; girls basketball won regionals; we dominated at solo-ensemble and at mock trials; and boys basketball won a share of the conference title.

It's no secret that students who participate in athletic and other co-curricular activities in River Falls are taught winning matters. Yep, winning is our focus; winning is our priority, and frankly, winning is all that matters. Of course the definition of winning should be clarified as not just something defined in the score book.

You see, here in River Falls our coaches and advisers teach our students that winning starts with character-and how we define "winning" is a reflection of our character. Winning begins with culture. Culture is forged by our character.

So what is the culture that creates winners? What is a winning culture? Again, and to be clear, winning is not just defined on the scoreboard but it is also grounded in what our coaches, teachers and community are teaching along the way.

Winning is grounded in life lessons that are taught through athletics and other co-curriculars. Winning is defined in the home, with parents, at school with our faculty and staff, in our community churches and through actions of civic organizations-and our Wildcat Way is to define winning through first being true to our character.

Certainly there are several "wins" that are found in what students learn through participation in athletics and co-curriculars. The culture of our Wildcat Way and the winning advantages are many-and below are just a few:

Win #1: Social skills are improved through participation in athletics and co-curriculars and the wins here include a sense of belonging; relationship building; learning to face life's ups and downs; how to handle pressure and stress; making instant decisions; problem-solving; communication; and developing resiliency.

Win #2: Self esteem is gained through participation in these activities. Among the biggest wins obtained are those of confidence, believing in yourself and your team. Winning is found within a sense of accomplishment, fulfilling goals and simply interacting with others.

Win #3: Better health is part of the win that comes from a more active lifestyle. Participation in co-curriculars also decreases negative influences while enhancing a mental sense of fulfillment and pride. Physical, social, and mental health all improve through participation.

Win #4: Mentors make a difference and having incredible coaches is a huge part of our winning ways in River Falls. We are blessed to have our children surrounded by caring adults who inspire, encourage and challenge our kids. Winning matters include character and culture lessons learned through athletics such as mutual trust, grace, humility, respect, responsibility, loyalty, work ethic, cooperation and commitment.

Let there be no mistake, winning on the scoreboard brings experiences that are unique and different-and by the way, life is full of competition. Yet, winning on the scoreboard seldom happens unless you first learn those fundamental skills that develop your character.

If not for the winning life lessons learned through participation, most of the scoreboard accomplishments would never happen. Strong family values, terrific coaches as mentors, teachers who inspire, a community that loves children and cares for each other, and kids who are committed, are all parts to the equation in creating winners.

Congratulations to all coaches, advisers, parents, and student-participants-this past weekend was a dandy, as you created memories for a lifetime, made our community proud and most importantly, you also proved to yourself that when you make those character commitments, winning in life will always follow.

May we all remember the many definitions of winning, including life lessons learned through all of our school and community experiences.

Winning culture matters!