Wednesday, April 18, 2012

So many reasons to be proud of the boys!!

original run date March 27
Chariton Valley News Press

I think I am suffering from withdrawal.  I checked my calendar this week and there were no basketball games to attend or take pictures at.  I wasn’t sure what to do with my time.  I did manage to keep myself from shaking and crying too much by working on cleaning up some of the mess in my house but that wasn’t near as exciting as games.
I have to say I’m proud of the Salisbury boys basketball team for many reasons this year.  Of course, I’m especially proud of the second place state finish.  WOW!  District tournament began the last week of February and fielded 122 Class 2 boys teams.  What an amazing accomplishment to play through the season and finish as one of the four premiere teams in the state.
With that being said, there is a much more important reason to be proud of this group of young men other than their state finish.  I have been a part of the excitement surrounding this group of junior guys since Jake joined their class as a seventh grader.  I have watched some of the juniors and seniors since they were in the second and third grade when they started playing football.  Needless to say, I have a case of bleacher behind from all the hours spent watching them in various sports over the course of the years.
This entire group of young men has always been a great example of sportsmanship and composure both on and off the field.  Yes, they have been “boys” at times, that’s what makes them all loveable and fun to be around.  But as they have entered high school and the spectrum of people watching them have expanded, they have always tried to set an example of what high school sports is all about.  As some of the younger boys meld into the team, it isn’t hard to see they are following the example set by the older guys.
They have won with grace and humility.  They have lost with poise and dignity.  Their composure on the court when down by what seemed like insurmountable odds could teach some adults a few things.  The boys on the bench are some of the most enthusiastic supporters of the guys on the floor.  They win as a “family” and lose as a “family” and I couldn’t be prouder of them if they won a world title.
I was honored to be at the t-shirt signing at the high school a few days before their final four games.  As the elementary students poured through the high school cafeteria, it was hard to tell who was the most excited – the little kids or the team members.  The elementary kids were ecstatic to meet some of the guys they had been watching on the court all year.  The team members were amazed at how many of the younger kids knew them by name.
I found myself chuckling at some of the reactions of both age groups.  Some of the young ladies coming through the line seemed a little awestruck.  The boys were equally impressed with meeting the guys they emulate during pickup games.  Some of the team members recalled the Panther final four appearance in 2005 and being on the t-shirt side of the autograph session.  What a testament to the positive influence high school sports can have on kids these days. 
I know some people think we put to much emphasis on high school sports but this past season highlights why they are so important to small communities.  Even before the state run, the town united in support of both the boys’ and girls’ teams.  That excitement carried to the district tournament in Sturgeon and beyond.  I was so impressed with the sea of purple in Sturgeon when Salisbury brought more fans than the hometown team did. 
The support never faltered as the boys team traveled to Sedalia, back to Moberly and finally to Columbia.  One of the security officers at Mizzou Arena was overheard talking about the show of support for the team on Thursday evening.  He commented that if burglars wanted an easy hit, Salisbury would be the place to be because he was certain most homes were empty.
I was so happy to be the primary photographer for Salisbury teams this season.  Because I have a son on the team, it seemed logical for me to photograph their games.  Man was it fun.  I found myself taking way more pictures than really necessary.  It is hard to put the camera down when four boys on the team can dunk with ease.  I might miss that perfect shot if I wasn’t ready.  I certainly hope to follow both teams from behind a camera in years to come.
Jake has given us a break from sports for a few months.  I won’t lie, as much as I enjoy watching him play sports, I’m happy for the break.  Our house project could use a few evenings of attention to finally wrap things up. 
As this school year rolls to an end, I have to brace myself for the inevitable.  I have to face my youngest becoming a senior and my last year of organized high school sports.  I’m already excited about football season come fall and basketball next year could prove to be just as exciting as this year. 
In the end, I’m grateful for the coaches and supporters that have been a part of Joni and Jake’s lives through the years.  The lessons they have learned, both good and bad, will serve them well throughout life.  They have learned to deal with the heartache of loss, enjoy the ecstasy of winning, how to deal with people and learned the importance of integrity and honesty. 
If you happen to meet up with me around town and I’m shaking a little bit, don’t fear.  The withdrawal symptoms have been easing through the week.  By the time summer basketball rolls around, my backside will be ready for my last year of bleacher residence.  The sports mom in me will be pumped and ready by football season to support our team as I’m sure the community will be also.
Congratulations Salisbury boys basketball, Coach Wyatt, and Coach Green.  It was a thrilling ride.  The community was proud of you every step of the way.

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