You can do what’s right for your team, even when hurting from defeat
Published 7:00 pm Wednesday, May 25, 2022
The MHSAA baseball playoffs concluded this week at Trustmark Park in Pearl with trophies being awarded to state champions in six different classifications.
Other than a few remaining all-star games, that’ll put a wrap on the high school sports season for the 2021-2022 school year.
Teams in this area have been done for a couple weeks now as Loyd Star and Brookhaven Academy made the deepest run into the postseason in baseball.
The Daily Leader will soon release the All-Area teams for softball and baseball and that truly puts a bow on our high school coverage for the year.
Picking postseason awards takes some reflection and in thinking back on the teams and players that I’ve watched this school year from August until May — my mind often wanders to situations I’ve seen or heard throughout the last year that I wasn’t a fan of.
What ever happened to the team?
Michigan football coaching great Bo Schembechler famously preached, “the team, the team, the team,” to his Wolverines.
Repetition announces relevance and what Schembechler was telling his players is that no one was bigger than the program that they all collectively belonged to.
The words of Bo were buzzing in my ear one night while sitting among some visiting fans in a local gym in mid-December.
There was a set of parents whose son was one of the best underclassmen on the visiting team. You couldn’t be in the gym for long and not know which child belonged to them.
They didn’t wear apparel that supported their school though, their shirts said, “Team His First Name,” across the back of their shoulders.
For that, I’m not casting any stones. Their son has a shot at being a good high school basketball player and they’re proud of him, which is their right as parents.
You couldn’t help but wonder if they knew that there were other players on the court though.
He didn’t get every rebound or score every basket, but their cheers weren’t wasted on the success of others.
Let their child make a corner 3-pointer though, and they leapt from their seats — screaming in excitement.
When their coach — who’s won a state championship in his career and coached on the high school and college level — pulled their son from the game, their grumbles were audible from two rows in front of me.
The player wasn’t being punished, he just needed a break and with him off the court, his parents gave their iPhones full attention until his return.
The team was up 10 points, on the way to an even bigger win, but you’d not knowing it by watching the faces of this mother and father as they scowled at any mistake made by the teammates of their baby.
That’s a similar scenario that I found myself in two months later while watching a playoff basketball game.
Again, seated among the visitors because that’s where the empty seats were, I watched a lower seed come to one of our local schools and score an upset in the first round of the postseason.
The visiting fans didn’t wage much of a celebration after the final buzzer though.
An argument broke out between a faction that were happy to win and a visibly ticked off parent. “Come on,” said one fan to the sourpuss. “We won the game, be happy.”
“I’m not going to be happy,” said the scowling parent, “I’m not worried about the team. I’m worried about why my baby was on the bench.”
Coaches used to tell us that a chain was only as strong as its weakest link. Everybody wasn’t going to be a starter. Everybody wasn’t going to be a star. Some people were going to practice every day and play very little on gameday.
In the team though, we could all find a role — we could all work together to build something greater than any one individual can accomplish.
I think many, many high school kids still find fulfillment in being part of a team and the culture that it builds, it’s just a shame that all their parents don’t feel the same way too.
Leaving it like you found it and not just for show
Feels like every year there will be a social media post that goes viral in highlighting good behavior of some high school or college athlete who “left it better than they found it.”
It might be a high school player that’s lauded by his coaches on Twitter for running a broom over the locker room floor long after the rest of the team has left.
The entire Army football team earned praises a few years back for leaving a visiting dressing space in immaculate condition after losing a heartbreaker in overtime at the University of Oklahoma. Reporters took pics of the spotless room and the Black Knights were cheered for their sportsmanship.
That type of good behavior often spawns copycats of the best variety. Some who see an example worth following and others who perhaps want to go viral themselves.
Going viral wasn’t on the mind of Brookhaven Academy senior forward Carter Watson as he cleaned up around his team’s bench area on a weeknight in February of this year.
Watson bent down to pick up empty Gatorade and water bottles to deposit in the trash. After that, he reached down and bearhugged a pile of long-sleeved, blue warm-up tops that he carried towards the dressing room.
He wasn’t doing anything to impress anyone in the bleachers, Watson was just doing the same thing he’d always done as a member of the Cougars basketball team for coach Josh Watts.
What made it most impressive was that Watson was carrying those dirty clothes with a heart that probably felt heavier than 10,000 loads of laundry.
The Cougars were playing Copiah Academy on the Colonel’s home court in an elimination game. They’d led big early, but CA had taken a late lead and BA had been in scramble mode to get points quickly and stop the clock from running by committing fouls.
After one of those fouls, BA guard Hayden Adams hid out in a corner and caught the Copiah defense slipping. Adams nailed a 3-pointer that tied the game at 61-61.
Watson came flying up the court and his mind was still in scramble mode with just 12 seconds remaining in the game. Watson reached out and grabbed the Copiah ball handler as the Colonels threw it in following Adam’s 3-pointer.
Instantly, he regretted his actions as Watson’s response to the whistle was to put his hands on the side of his head with widening eyes.
Copiah Academy walked down the court and made two-free throws to regain the lead and the Cougars attempt at a game-tying shot went for naught.
Put yourself in Watson’s sneakers and imagine how you’d react in that moment after the final buzzer of your final high school basketball game.
Be honest with yourself, would you have fallen out on the floor in a show grief and emotions or maybe sprinted to the locker room and left the view of fans as quickly as possible?
I know that me as an 18-year-old, I wouldn’t have thought first about picking up the trash left by my teammates on the bench. I’d have been too busy reserving a table for one at the biggest pity-parties to ever be thrown.
The next day, Brookhaven Academy announced Watson as the school’s Star Student after he made higher than any other senior in his class on the ACT.
That doesn’t feel like a coincidence, does it?
That a kid who could look a painful night on the court right in the eyes and keep on moving forward — that same kid shining on an assessment that test college readiness — not a coincidence in the least bit.
That’s a guy that we’d all want on our team.
Cliff Furr is the sports editor at The Daily Leader. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org