The perfect seasonThe following is an article about a very special group of young ladies I wanted to write it a couple years ago but failed to do so. This article is about what is important in sports, and it may not be what you think.
The following is another “Have Fun or Get Out of the Way” column by award-winning Don Leighton and Mike Granlund and their alter egos, Lance Boyle and Billy Pirkola.
The following is an article about a very special group of young ladies I wanted to write it a couple years ago but failed to do so. This article is about what is important in sports, and it may not be what you think.
As always, my opinion pieces are viewed by some as right on and by others as ramblings of the village idiot. With basketball season just around the corner, I need to write this piece and remove it from my “bucket list.”
When I began with this article in my mind, I had just finished coaching a group of fifth- and sixth-grade girls in the Superior Basketball Association. About half of the 10 girls on the team had never played basketball. Before the season started, we had a parent/player meeting where I explained what I was looking for and the parents could ask any questions they would like. Wins and losses were not my greatest concern. Having fun, working hard, learning and improving their skills were my top four goals.
Anyone who ever played against me or saw me play sports when I was younger can attest to my temper and desire to win. (My temper was about my own failures not those of others.) As I have entered the autumn of my life, I believe I have a better handle on what is, and what is not, important in athletic competition. Everyone has his or her own opinion on this topic, and many will feel I am the aforementioned village idiot.
I haven’t coached now for a couple of years and really miss coaching young people. I hope to return to the court next season with my daughter, Alexa, and a close personal friend who knows who she is. Alexa played at St. Scholastica for four years and is an RN in Duluth. My friend is a teacher, a coach and former collegiate athlete as well. I believe we would be great together. A nurse, a teacher and an idiot -- what a great combination.
Some coaches are better than others. Some coaches are more knowledgeable than others. And sadly, some coaches should not be coaching at all. I hope the players I have coached over the past 25 years feel I was a good coach.
Could I have been better? Of course. I’m most proud when a former player sees me and says, “Hi, coach!” I guess I’m getting reflective in my old age.
Back to “my girls.” During the 10-game regular schedule and post-season tournament, we won no games while losing 12. Of all the teams I have ever coached, this was the only winless season, but the pleasure I got from coaching these kids was incredible. Sure, my great assistant coaches and friends, Bob DeMeyer and Steve Hendry, and I would get frustrated by the lack of wins. But our goals were to push the girls to have fun and to learn teamwork, sportsmanship and the game of basketball. Winning is important, and there are winners and losers in life. Players can take many things from a loss that will make them better as they progress.
I’m hopeful these goals were embraced and the girls are using them today to better themselves in school, as friends, as members of their families and as people in general. I encourage each of them and their parents to always be the best they can. As a parent or grandparent, it’s never too late to set a good example for the ones you love. We won’t be around forever, and it is important to never forget the influence we have on the young people in our lives
During the first half of the season, we were losing games by 20-plus points. During the second half, those same teams were beating us by single digits. In fact, on one sunny Saturday at the Middle School, we lost a one-point game in the final seconds to a team that hammered us earlier. (We should have won. Obviously it must have been the coaching. DeMeyer and Hendry probably did something wrong.)
I can honestly say I have loved every kid I have coached, even the ones who disliked me. This group of young ladies was very special. I have never, at any age, boy or girl, coached a team where someone did not cry when the season was over. Not one of these fifth- or sixth-graders shed a tear after that 12th loss.
Was it relief? Was it because they didn’t have to come to any more practices? Was it because they were done with me? Were they hungry and excited to go to Aces for the pizza party? Maybe, but I am going to believe it was because they had fun and learned something about basketball and life. However, the pizza was great.
These fabulous young girls are Lanie DeMeyer, Nicole Hendry, Timika Miner, Mackenzie Krenzel, Creede McClellan, Molly Bergum, Addy Johnson, Alyssa Rhodes, Natalie Noble and Alexis Johnson.
I want to thank them and their families and friends who supported us. I especially want to thank them for their effort and for that “perfect season.”
I’m sorry this column took two years to write. They deserved praise long ago. I love you guys, good luck with life, and never settle for less than you can be. Remember, “Good things happen to those who work hard.”
Opinions and/or story ideas can be e-mailed to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org