Thursday, March 7, 2013
More to it than trophies
Trips to the Big House can turn into a nice reunion, too.
For instance, last weekend I ran into coach Shane Montgomery, head girls coach at Class 4A North Pontotoc High School.
I honed my sports writing skills covering his Lady Eagles of Tremont High School back in the late 1980s.
And I’m pretty sure it was Coach Montgomery and the Lady Eagles who get credit for my first-ever trip to Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson to cover the state basketball tournament.
I was in my mid-20s working for The Itawamba County Times, just having moved across the state line from Mississippi to Alabama.
Coach Montgomery was one of the coaches who helped me “learn the ropes.” It didn’t take long for the two of us to gain mutual respect for one another.
Coach Montgomery was all smiles last week, taking his Lady Vikings down for a visit a few days before they had to play. He wanted them to just get a feel for the big stage. It’s sort of “deer in the headlights” for players going there the first time.
He was also realistic about his team’s tall task ahead.
His Lady Vikings collided with the state’s number-one-ranked squad, Bay High, on Monday of this week. They lost 74-31.
My heart always goes out to the losers at the state tournament level.
All the teams work so hard to get there. It’s a great reward for great seasons.
Then they come up short. It’s heartbreaking.
I was in the media room Friday after H.W. Byers crushed Bogue Chitto in the 1A semi-finals. Of course, as a member of the media which covers the Lady Lions, I was very happy to see them in the winner’s circle one more time.
But then at the same time, as one of the Lady Bobcat seniors was asked a question, she started crying and wiping tears from her eyes. I felt for her. It was the third straight season they had met Byers, one of the top basketball programs in the state, and the third straight time they had been eliminated.
That’s not easy to face for a teenager who has sweated in the gym for years, trying to achieve the ultimate prize, a state crown.
As the press conference ended, I made it a point to walk over to the Bogue Chitto seniors and their coach and congratulate them on an excellent season.
In high school, I never made it to a state tournament. Most high school athletes won’t.
My senior season in basketball we went 23-7, setting a school record for wins at that time. My last game was a loss in the playoffs before the state tourney. I was disappointed.
But now, looking back, what’s most important are times spent with my teammates and coaches – the relationships.
I remember what basketball really taught me – discipline, determination, hard work, and so on and so forth.
Trophies can be broken. Most of my individual ones from my playing days – youth baseball to high school – have either fallen apart or they’re stored away somewhere.
Last week, an old picture of me from high school days (during a post-game celebration) surfaced on Facebook. I don’t remember much about the game itself. But I recall the faces – the friendships.
On down the road, young people playing sports today will cherish the memories – championship or not.
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