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John's Journal:National Recognition For La Crescent-Hokah's Noah Bjerke-Wieser

Will Receive Musial Award In St. Louis On Dec. 24 In Televised Event

Posted: Tuesday, October 17, 2023 - 6:10 PM


noah

Noah Bjerke-Wieser.

Last December, a John's Journal story was posted about Noah Bjerke-Wieser, who was a senior basketball player at La Crescent-Hokah. Noah, bothered by how basketball officials were being treated by fans, composed a message about showing respect for the officials and posted it on Facebook. The post spread far and wide, and now Noah is receiving national recognition. 

The Musial Awards, based in St. Louis, will recognize Noah and others in an event that will be televised by CBS on Dec. 24. What are the Musial Awards? Here is a description from the organization's website ...

The Musial Awards presented by Maryville University is produced by the St. Louis Sports Commission and the National Sportsmanship Foundation, a charitable nonprofit organization. In addition to keeping Stan The Man’s legacy alive, the mission of the Musial Awards is to encourage kindness, selflessness, integrity and civility in sports and society – and to inspire people across the nation to be good sports. The event has occurred in St. Louis since 2005. Maryville University has served as the presenting sponsor since 2011. The school’s involvement, leadership and generosity have helped make the Musial Awards the most inspiring night in sports.

Here is the announcement about Noah from the Musial Award website:

A year ago, no one would have guessed that Noah Bjerke-Wieser was the right messenger with the right message in the right place. He was too young, too bold, and he picked the wrong platform. Given that his plea for respect and sportsmanship extended beyond his hometown and across the nation proves that we all would have guessed wrong.

As in cities large and small, Noah’s basketball team at La Crescent-Hokah High School in southeastern Minnesota has a passionate fan base. Residents of La Crescent, population 5,000, cheer when the Lancers win, commiserate when they lose. And when a questionable call doesn’t go the their way, they let the refs know it − maybe a little too harshly at times.

To be fair, La Crescent’s fans are not alone.  Nearly 20% of referees nationwide quit every year because of taunting and abuse. But in a smaller town like La Crescent, a shortage of officials can be especially acute. The fans and players know the refs and their tendencies. And vice versa. The first home game of the 2022-23 season, for example, ended in a victory, yet officials heard jeers over calls from some La Crescent partisans.

“We weren’t happy as players about some of the calls, but it was getting rowdy from the fans, over and over,” Noah says. “It was disrespectful.”

Coach Ryan Thibodeau wasted no time, addressing the team in the locker room. “We spoke about needing to be better as a team in how we handle things that don’t go our way,” he says.

As captain, Noah felt responsible for setting the tone and preventing the ill will from escalating. So, he took the coach’s message a step further, composing a social media post.  “At first, my mom tried to talk me out of it,” Noah says. “After she read it, she changed her mind a little, asking ‘Are you really sure you want to do this?'”

He was so sure that he bypassed TikTok and Instagram, where his teammates and friends would see it, and posted on Facebook. “I knew it would reach the most people, especially adults in the stands,” he says. It read, in part: “As a captain of the varsity team I would like to come out and say we need to stop yelling at the refs, us as players, and as spectators in the stands…As players and spectators, we need to let the players play, the officials officiate and the fans cheer. I know I am not perfect in this too but we need to change. I hope we can all come together as a community and change for the better.”

Noah has a relatively modest 170 friends on Facebook, but the post has been shared by five times that many people. Among them are school districts, sports teams and athletic associations across the country. “I was hoping our local community would read it,” he says. “But it blew up and kept going.” He suspects that his message carried more weight because he is so young. “If a parent or the school had sent it out, it wouldn’t have been such a big deal.”

His coach was most impressed with Noah’s leadership and fearlessness. “It’s easy when you know that a lot of people are on your side. But when you know you’re going to get pushback, and still put it out there, that’s a sign of character.” Noah’s post “sparked a better conversation with our activities director,” Ryan says, “and as the year went on, the behavior got better, from players and fans.”

This year, Noah’s playing days are behind him. He attends Western Technical College in nearby La Crosse, Wisconsin, but his old coach carries Noah’s message.

“You hope that players leave the program having learned a few things from you,” Ryan says. “But I’ve also learned from him how to be a better coach. Things we can learn from 16-, 17- and 18-year-olds are things you don’t forget.”

Click here to read the original John's Journal story about Noah: https://www.mshsl.org/about/news/johns-journal/johns-journal-powerful-s… 

--MSHSL senior content creator John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at [email protected] 


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