Congratulations to all of the Del Norte High students who reached state competition this past school year. Plenty of good pupils and teams don't reach state - our volleyball and softball teams with their impressive numbers of wins and conference titles are a case in point this past year - so attaining that level of success is indeed something to be proud of. But even for those many students who never reach state, their time participating in an extracurricular activity was not wasted.

Sports, speech, band, yearbook and other extracurricular activities all are great ways for students to learn about teamwork, goal setting, overcoming adversity and to develop self-discipline. Those skills follow students far beyond the football field and auditorium stage into their school studies and through adulthood. Indeed, one study released earlier this year found that students who learned to play music instruments actually performed better academically. All parents ought to encourage their children to find some extracurricular activity in which to participate.

This past weekend, one Del Norte student achieved the highest athletic honor of any high school pupil during the year: Junior Kelsy Hintz garnered second place in the pole vaulting competition. Second place among all California high school girls is nothing to shrug at. The interesting part of the story is that she just barely made the list of Saturday's nine finalists. Did all of that track and field practice help Kelsy learn to push aside adversity so she could finish second, or is she just the type of person capable of overcoming setbacks? Probably a little of both. Either way, we suspect there's a life lesson for Kelsy - and for many other students - in this weekend's events.

Of course, very few students are successful without the support of their parents and a good coach. Every great hero in literature has a mentor, after all, and it's no different in real life. Driving children to and from practices, attending events on weekends, patiently offering advice and encouragement - it's definitely a significant commitment.

But it's worth it, not just for the child's success but for the community. We're training tomorrow's leaders, businesspeople and citizenry today. Extracurricular activities help build a better future.