In August, when fall sports kicked into high gear, we had several student athletes contact us for their fundraising. Although the people who stopped by to raise money don’t call themselves team ambassadors, that’s essentially what they are. They’re knocking on doors, promoting their sports teams, and asking for our support.

My wife and I are always happy to buy from the first person or two from each team who contacts us. One of the players who stopped by from girls volleyball with a fundraising card was so pleasant, engaging, and interesting to talk to that it spiked our interest in volleyball. As a result, my wife and I went to our first Shakopee volleyball game a couple weeks ago.

Shakopee was ranked fifth at the time, and the team squared off against No. 8-ranked Minnetonka. It was incredibly exciting, and the game came down to the final set with Shakopee dominating at the end for the big win.

When my kids were in school, we dedicated most of our evenings and weekends to their activities, which didn’t leave much time for sports they weren’t playing. Now that we’re empty nesters, we have the opportunity to attend more events. Consequently, we see why the volleyball team has such a devoted following and is consistently regarded as a powerhouse team.

I’m very impressed with the talent, athleticism, and cool-under-pressure toughness of the team. Players were fearless, threw themselves onto the court to make plays, and were extremely supportive of each other. They have all the core elements of a successful team. Plus there were great plays and thrilling volleys back and forth. Everything about the game was fun to watch.

As a dad of a volleyball player told me later, “Girls volleyball is the best spectator sport. It’s fun and fast paced when it’s good.” I found that to be true. It’s action-oriented with little downtime. I ended up losing my voice from cheering and yelling, and we plan to attend more games this season.

Likewise, a neighbor from the girls swim and dive team stopped by to sell cookie dough. When she delivered it, she also gave us a nice handwritten thank you note. In all the years we’ve been supporting fundraisers, no one has ever given us a card like that. It also never occurred to us to have our kids do that when they used to participate in fundraisers.

Between the card and how nice the person was when she stopped by, no matter what she sells in the future, we’ll support her. After hearing her enthusiasm at being part of the team, my wife and I attended our first-ever swim and dive meet last week.

Many of the swim races were close, which added to the excitement. The diving was equally enjoyable to watch, with some of the athletes pulling off amazing dives. They were certainly fun to watch. As a person who can’t swim or dive, I was thoroughly impressed by how fast and strong the athletes could swim, and how graceful they looked leaping off the diving board and performing twists, turns and somersaults.

The talent on the volleyball court and in the pool highlights once again that Shakopee has extraordinarily gifted athletes who work hard and achieve high levels of success. I realize fundraising is not always enjoyable and knocking on peoples’ doors to ask for money can be intimidating, but I also know how much the programs rely on that money to cover myriad expenses and enable excellent experiences.

Besides the financial aspect of fundraising, another benefit is having players who are visible and serving as positive representatives of their programs introducing themselves in their neighborhoods. It’s what got me intrigued with sports I wasn’t familiar with, enticed me to attend, and made me an instant fan.

From what I’ve seen, Shakopee has a solid line-up of sports teams this fall that are doing well, earning wins, and getting notice. With only a $7 per game entry fee, our local high school sports teams offer the best value in town.

Brett Martin is a columnist who’s been a Shakopee resident for over 15 years.