by Tony Sutphin
I made the trip to Mt Tabor to watch the State Playoff Basketball game against Page because I knew the atmosphere and game would be worth it.
The gym was packed and Mt Tabor had a little too much for Page whom played well and had a great season – my good friend Brandon Clifford is the asst coach for Page and he is such a great person and coach, I just love the fact that he is out there helping those kids, and that and the game made me think about what is right with high school sports.
High school sports should be played with emotion like it was tonite at Mt Tabor, sometimes coaches get in a players face and tell them to not play scared or man up, or whatever he deems necessary to get the athlete to perform, to get him pumped up, to get him to achieve things he may not think are possible. Then a player makes a great play and everyone goes crazy, it is so exciting for someone competitive like myself – it just gives you a great feeling inside – athletes and coaches know the feeling.
Sometimes in the process a coach may even curse because it is an exciting emotional time – you don’t have to agree with it, but it is okay and it will not harm you or anyone else that may hear it – it is the parents job to teach kids right and wrong and if they hear it, tell them it is a bad word – period it will not harm little Johnny – believe me elementary school kids are cursing in school, teach them how to deal with it, dont complain about a coach who is actually helping and teaching your child how to be a man and in the process through sports – you will have a lifetime of stories to tell and maybe even a college scholarship to continue to play the game you love.
Tonite – I heard some players curse, some coaches scream, some coaches curse (right next to my 13 yr old daughter), a student section that heckled and made fun of everything associated with Page – players cheeleaders, etc – yet no athletic director or principal stared them down or shook fingers at them – they were tasteful, having fun and supporting their school – something competitive successful sports programs inspires – it makes the community so proud. Typically at Grimsley-Page events you can witness principals and athletic directors ready to pounce on any student that may get out of hand – well there were no fights tonite – if anything the taunting and rowdy student section made the Page team play harder and want to win even more – all of this in my opinion helps these kids grow up and helps them deal with life. One day these kids will have bosses or other coaches whom are unreasonable, they may curse and scream and you may have to learn to deal with it.
Last fall Grimsley fired myself and Head Coach Alan Ash from the Grimsley baseball team – one of the many baseless reasons was that “they wanted what was best for the kids” – well in four years at Grimsley one player quit, in two weeks with a new coach that is best for the kids – Grimsley has had at least three players quit, and one transfer to another school. The three players that quit may or may not play after high school – but they missed out playing some more, and that is not right. It is not right that Alan is not helping kids when he knows so much about the game. He would coach and help kids for nothing, thats what he does. He may be hard on kids, he may get in someones face, he may have embarrassed your son or my son at one time or another – but odds are that player would still love Al the next day.
I know I am rambling around – but I am not a professional writer – but to be involved in the game like this whether you are on the winning end or the losing end – these players and coaches will talk about it forever. Similar to one of the best baseball games I was involved in – two years ago Grimsley was at West Forsyth for the 2nd round of the state playoffs – West Forsyth had 5 or 6 D1 players in the lineup and we had one – Clint Moore and he was pitching – I think every player involved with that game has a memory they have talked about – whether it was Gabe Dimock throwing out their leadoff hitter who was stealing in the first inning – he had some type of stolen base record and Gabe hosed him with my freshman son covering the bag – I was scared to death he would drop Gabes perfect throw but he popped up and threw it around like he had done 100’s of times playing travel ball all over the country – maybe all my yelling and coaching him at a young age was helping him handle these situations. Whether it was Clint Moore not letting Coach Ash consider taking him out even though he was over 120 pitches – Clint wanted to win this game for his team, his family and friends. Whether it was Greg Holt of West Forsyth who looked like he had hit a walkoff homer to steal the game for West – but the ball fell just short of going out and Alan Craven caught it and threw to first for a game ending double play. I felt like Jim Valvano when he won the National Championship looking for someone to hug. As good as I had felt for us winning, I felt bad for Greg and his parents – it was hard to take – but I bet it helped Greg become more of a man – Greg is doing pretty well – as he plays college baseball for the best college team in the world – UNC. And I would bet that even Greg tells a story or two about that game.
High school sports are about these memories – not everyone can play equally – I think high school sports is for players that want to play at the next level – but it seems lately that we are trying to make high school sports about players that will not play at the next level. My two cents is that your high school should try and win and make some memories win or lose, not please parents that really only care who is playing. My wife went to a meeting today for my daughters middle school softball team and some parents were asking questions about whether everyone gets equal playing time and winning is not important, they all should play equally. If this is your belief that is fine and there are places you can play such as rec ball, upward programs, etc – but school sports should be about winning and developing. One of the best things about high school sports is when that player that doesnt get to play all year gets a chance and does well – the whole team and crowd go crazy – boom another instant memory and story for him to tell.