Larry Banman: West Grand girls help define the meaning of success
February 25, 2008
Coaching girls basketball this past season has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
At the beginning of the season, I wrote a column about why students put themselves through something as grueling as a high school sports season ” without any financial reward or any guarantee of personal or team success. In almost every competitive situation, there is only one team that ends each season with a victory and the reward of being crowned champion. And, in those situations, students sacrifice time, money, effort, sweat, tears, blood and often their own best self-interests for the betterment of the entire team.
It was mid-February when I decided one of the main reasons for making those sacrifices is that when people have a feeling of “belonging” it satisfies some inherent yearning that each of us has within our being. In my opinion, people “want” to be “wanted.” The next step happens when people start to have a feeling that what they do has an impact on somebody else’s life. It is that desire in people that is an essential building block for membership in any group. That can be used for good in something like a team sport, or it can be used to manipulate people into the negative activities for which criminal gangs are noted.
The team that I had the privilege of coaching this year was the West Grand High School girls basketball team. If you simply looked at the won-loss record, I don’t suppose you would call the season a success.
I have been a player and coach for over 25 years of my life. When I look back at those years, I realize that I have a general idea of how many games and contests were won and lost. I have had athletic success in cross-country, track and post-high school baseball. I have also been a member of teams for which wins were a rarity. However, many of the lessons I brought from all of those experiences were not tied to the final score.
Don’t get me wrong, I never entered a contest in which I didn’t try to win. Also, my behavior during some of those contests has not always been exemplary as competition brought out some reactions for which I was later not pleased. However, many of the best things I brought from those competitive situations were not tied to holding a trophy over my head when the contest was over.
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Many of my best friendships were forged on the field of play. My best high school friendship was developed while running hundreds of miles over roads and trails in the heat and humidity of Kansas. From my high school basketball coach, I learned the lessons of discipline, teamwork, character and hard work.
This past week, I learned another lesson from the girls on our basketball team. We
entered the week knowing that we were traveling to Grand Valley to play the top team in the league. The Cardinals had defeated our team by more than 40 points earlier in the season and we would be playing on their homecourt. It was a monumental task.
All week, the coaching staff asked the girls to work hard and to believe in themselves. It was the most grueling week of practice this year and, at times, patience was tested and tempers were at or near the surface. What happened on Saturday was nothing short of beautiful. The girls came out and executed the game plan to perfection. They built an early lead and played with desire and passion throughout the game. I wish they would have been rewarded with the monumental upset, but the Cardinals were able to gradually pull away to a victory but it was nowhere near as decisive as the previous contest. If the team with the bigger heart would have been awarded the victory, the Lady Mustangs would be practicing for more games this weekend.
I told the girls after the game that I could not be more proud of them and I stand by those words. The character that they revealed on Saturday will be something that will stand them in good stead throughout their lives. It is my belief that the sacrifices they made this season will be rewarded in future success in the game of life. I certainly am in their corner.
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