Beyond The Score

Central Vermont Sports Blog

Archive for the ‘General Discussions’ Category

March Madness

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March Madness is one of my favorite times of the year. Not just because of college basketball but because of local high school and college sports playoffs. The usual snow storm complicates the Vermont scene. It’s madness because of time changes, snowblower repairs, broken shovels, canceled local games and power outages. The madness is relentless and I really enjoy it. It has something to do with the added challenges of being 72 years old.

2017 has brought me a few regrets mostly because of a toxic negative attitude that has seeped into me from the current political environment. Today was an AHHA moment when my wife said it was a NDT day (No Donald Trump) for her. So I started her NDT day and found that it was hard for me to avoid the media stream of negative political opinions but I was able shut it off!

This negative attitude went beyond politics and has seeped into my everyday life. I love basketball at every level. I go to games and watch whenever possible. I’m sitting here watching Wichita State vs Kentucky men on my computer and West Virginia vs Maryland women on my iPhone while flipping between the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Red Sox spring baseball on TV. I know. I’m a freak!

This brings me to the regret I mentioned earlier. A good friend gave me tickets to all the Vermont girls basketball tourney games at the famous Barre AUD. The previous week I enjoyed the Vermont DII, DIII, DIV boys tourney. The girls tourney began and that’s when my negative attitude started to complicate my passion for local sports.

The regret started when I watched a game and the score with one minute left in the first period was 1-0. The score at the half was 7-5. For some reason I became disgusted by the level of play and stopped enjoying the tourney as this was not the first game with such a low level of play.  These are the four best teams in the state from each division. I found myself being critical of officials, coaches, players and fans. I had reached a low in my attitude and appreciation of sport.

I thank my wife for the NDT day as I saw myself sliding into a swamp of moan, groan, gripe and complain thinking. Conflict and confrontation seems to have dominated 2017. Damn it, I’m a victim.

Back to my regret! I was sitting in the coffee shop talking about the low level of play and another retired girls basketball coach mentioned he was looking for tickets to the sold out finals for the girls basketball tournament. I gave him all my tickets not out of generosity but out of disgust. I totally regret that thinking for many reasons!

Until this year I’ve thought of myself as a person that would judge a player not so much for athletic ability but more for their effort and character. When I was coaching I always appreciated the character and effort a player put into the game. Many athletic gifted players would hang back and not explore improving their gifts while a lesser talented athlete would work like hell to improve. I’ve always been drawn to players with a strong character and a tireless work ethic.

I had forgotten that and was making judgements about the level of play over the level of effort. Because of that I missed a great championship game which was all about character and effort. How could I ever judge a player because they didn’t have a perceived athletic skill level or perform to some external expectation?

Today while watching tributes to Arnie during the Arnold Palmer Invitational from Bay Hill in Florida, I realized I had gone to a dark place. #ArnieWould profiles reminded me that to give to others and love each other was much stronger than fear and hate. Having a NDT day brought me back to what’s really important.

Today I was reminded to appreciate effort and celebrate character. I was reminded by Arnold Palmer to give to others and love each other. This is what’s real and after a NDT day I realize and remember who I was before the 2016 election and I’m glad.

Written by Roger

March 19, 2017 at 7:14 PM

Winter Sports and Rules of Life

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(first published December 2014 but somehow got deleted . . . so including it for archives)

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Every year round around the winter holidays coaches and players face the same dilemma; family activities and commitment to sport. Every parent and every player have been given a school handbook that took several people many hours of planning and designing. This handbook spells out the commitment the school has made to the students. It explains the role parents and students play when committing to participate in a sport. Consent forms, eligibility guidelines, privacy rights, hazing, substance abuse, physical risks, school/team rules, policies, and conflicts are all spelled out and commitment letters are signed by the student and parent.

Expectations are pretty straight forward but every year problems arise. Recently, I went to Stowe High School to watch a boys basketball game. The parking lot had 3 cars in it so that was a big clue that the game had been canceled. The reason – there were not enough Stowe players to play the game. Some families had decided to go on family trips, some went skiing, and who knows what other excuses were given. So traveling officials, journalists, score keepers, coaches, bus drivers, visiting team, Vermont Principals Association (VPA) and others are now all effected because some parents decided to break the contract and have their kids do something else.

I understand the importance of families doing things together and planning special trips. I don’t understand not being up front about it at the beginning of the season so everyone can plan for the changes. Other teams, coaches, schedules and league play are all effected. VPA now has to approve a make-up game or classify the game as a forfeit. A lot of people are effected by this unwillingness to abide by the signed contract and failure to inform others about your plans. Emergencies occur and are understood but this other stuff is just inconsiderate.

Players and parents that display this kind of disrespect for their school are not uncommon but it works both ways. A lack of respect for players and families by coaches and the school also come into play. Recently the Montpelier community had to deal with a very difficult tragedy. A well known former student had died. He graduated last year so many of his friends were still attending Montpelier High. The celebration of his life was on a game night. A player chose to attend the service and because she missed the game she was penalized by the coach and limited to sitting the bench much of the next game.

It’s hard to schedule practices during the holidays. One coach got some gym time at 8:15pm on Christmas Eve. Of course many families are planning events or traveling on Christmas Eve. Players that missed this practice were also penalized by not playing much in the next game.

I will not go on about the types of problems that occur in sport because of the way people interrupt their rules of life. I will say that people that create these situations do so because they are not connected to their community. They are unaware of how their decisions effect others. They are not bad people but the decisions they make can hurt others unknowingly. Knowing your community and respecting others avoids the need to be solving a lot of problems. Communication, community and character seem to make all the difference.

So what are your “rules of life” when it comes to sports? What are your priorities?

Do you think sport is just a game and everyone that participates wins?

Do you believe that each individual should strive to be the best he/she can possibility be?

Is winning important? Does winning and losing teach us anything?

I always draw from UCLA Coach John Wooden’s “Pyramid to Success.” He teaches about the joy of the journey. The 16 building blocks in his pyramid match the 16 weeks of the high school basketball season from tryouts to championship day. Wooden teaches how to develop character and how to succeed a day at a time. I’m preaching here but if we can take a lesson from Coach Wooden many of the poor decisions can be avoided.

IndustriousnessFriendship, Loyalty, Cooperation, Enthusiasm,
Self-Control, Alertness, Initiative, Intentness,
Condition, Skill, Team Spirit,
Poise, Confidence,
 Competitive Greatness

Roger Crowley / CrowleyPhotos.com

Written by Roger

September 25, 2016 at 11:07 AM

RadRover Rides with Roger

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RadRover_003.jpg

Last May I bought an electric bike after a couple of years of research and trying various ebikes. Larry Gilbert of Zoom Bikes in East Montpelier was a great help! He is very knowledgeable and I learned a lot from him but I was looking for a bike that I could ride on the terrible roads in and around Montpelier VT. A Fat tire ebike seemed like the way to go so I checked out several fat tire bikes in the area. None were ebikes and all very expensive. That’s when I came across Rad Power Bikes in Seattle WA and settled for a RadRover ($1499); 48 volt battery, 750 watt motor, etc.

It could handle the hills of Vermont and carry a fat guy like me (205lbs). So I ordered one and haven’t looked back. As of August 24, 2016 I have ridden 638 miles. I would ride more each day if the battery would allow but because of the hills and my weight I’m only able to ride about 16-18 miles a day. I have to time my return home carefully or I’ll be peddling this 60+ lb bike and 205 lb body up Towne Hill Road and it isn’t easy. It does have a 7 Speed Shimano rear derailleur but I’d need more like 27 speed to handle the hills without the motor assist.

I’ve ordered another battery so I can extend my ride but as usual Rad Power Bikes are OUT  of  STOCK  most of the time especially with accessories. Tech Support and Sales are awesome. You call (800) 939-0310 and a knowledgeable friendly person will answer.

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I bought fenders (Rad Power Bikes), rear mountain rack (Onion River Sports), a wireless tail light under the seat (Amazon – ONEU Bike Tail Light) an iPhone mount for making videos and a pricy heavy duty Abus uGrip Bordo 5700 folding bike lock.

I’ve started using Runtastic app on my iPhone 6 to track my rides. It does a great job of using GPS to map everywhere I’ve been and also collects all kinds of data related to elevation, speed, pace, weather, etc. It even shares the info with socail media apps if you choose. Tech Support at Runtastic is absolutely terrible. Mostly generic automated responses to your tech questions. Great app – Lousy Support . . .

Lately I’ve been sharing some brief videos of my rides. You can check them out here.

RAD ROVER RIDES with ROGER –JUNE   Short ride on Summer Solstice day in Vermont plus a few pics of the bike. I’ve had this bike a few months now and can’t spend enough time on it.

RAD ROVER RIDES with ROGER – JULY   After spending sometime with friends at the Cabot VT July 4th Parade,  I rode 16 miles on the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail. This 2 minute clip shows brief sections from Cambridge to Morrisville Vermont. Walkers, runners, bikes and dogs enjoy this busy trail.

RAD ROVER RIDES with ROGER – AUGUST   Smuggler’s Notch in Stowe Vermont is a windy road and tractor trailers although forbidden to drive it try and get stuck. It’s a fun ride. Also the toll road that climbs Mt Mansfield has breath taking views!

RAD ROVER RIDES with ROGER – OCTOBER This ride starts with a picture at Wrightsville Dam in Montpelier then on to Berlin Pond, Sodom Pond in Adamant VT and ends on the back roads of East Montpelier Vermont.

Written by Roger

August 24, 2016 at 12:09 PM

PLAYING TIME – ?

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Playing time is probably the single biggest issue facing players, parents and coaches in sports today. It has always been an issue but more so today because individual needs have a higher priority than team needs. Youth (K-8) sports demand participation by all players. It’s the time when developing skills happens. It’s when the seed for the joy of competing is planted. As players get older individual talent and skills start to separate players. Once they reach the varsity level in their sport things change. The idea of universal participation and equal playing time take a back seat to teams striving for success by utilizing the best fit, most skilled competitive athletes on the field as much as possible. Team concepts become more important than the individual satisfaction of getting some playing time. Athletes earn playing time by the quality of performance during practice and games A players attendance, attitude and character also play a major role in a coaches decision for playing time.

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Why do kids choose to participate in a sport? There are as many reasons as there are players on the field but basically they just want to play. They want the thrill and challenge of competing. They want the excitement of being with their friends and sharing the joy of success. From the day they sign up until the final team gathering at the end of the season, players, coaches and parents face many challenges and the dynamics of sport can get complicated, especially when parents and players begin to have problems with playing time.

Parents and players often question the decision coaches make and that’s when the joy of sport starts to dim. I hear parents wondering why their kid is playing a certain position or why they’re being substituted. Parents like to talk strategy during games and question the coaches, referees and players decisions. These questions and attitudes can sometimes set a negative tone for a sport. Support can turn into criticism and the team concept can be compromised. The fun of playing slowly gets diminished.

How coaches and parents deal with dissent and outside criticism makes all the difference in having a successful season or an unhappy experience.

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Players come home disappointed in their performance or lack of play and complain to parents. How parents handle these moments is the difference between their child growing and learning to solve problems or not. I feel it would be more beneficial for parents to teach their children how to approach solving their problems. Parents solving problems for their kids just makes them passive and they will lack the strength of character to deal with problems in the future. Give players the skills and strategies to address problems on their own before taking aggressive action as a parent.

Recently a local girls high school soccer team welcomed a new coach. During the first meeting parents asked the coach many questions about her philosophy of the game and coaching. They asked the usual question about playing time. Her response was enthusiastic and strong. As a young varsity coach she emphasized winning. She said that things like fitness, athletic skill, attendance at practice, attitude, and game specific situations would determine playing time.

As I watch players develop during a season, I notice that some players lack the skills, fitness and experience to compete at a high level. If they were to play against a physically strong and highly skilled team they could get hurt or hurt someone else. All coaches face this situation. It is not always easy to recognize when it’s safe for them to play. It is often difficult for parents to recognize ability and safety issues when they are focusing on playing time.

The question of playing time is key to everything a coach believes about their sport. It is key to why players play. When parents get involved distraction enters the game. Parents can often lose sight of the goals of the program and see things from a narrow point of view – playing time for their son or daughter. This, of course, takes the game away from the coach and players. Another game comes into play. This other game has little to do with sport and success.

I believe the best coach ever was John Wooden, the UCLA men’s basketball coach from the 1960-70’s. He touched the lives of many people during his lifetime. His philosophy was simple and he never wavered from it.

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable.”

He created a “Pyramid of Success” and all the building blocks are about character. The joy of the journey was more important than winning. Winning was just the result of reaching success and knowing that as a coach, player or parent, you have given the effort and developed the character to reach the top of the pyramid.

Coach Wooden has written many books about his journey in sport. He has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and touched the lives of many in and out of sport.

To learn more check out Coach Wooden’s website.
http://www.coachwooden.com/index2.html

Written by Roger

September 25, 2014 at 11:18 PM

A Distance Runners’ Mentality

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Today is National Running Day!

I’m not a runner. I watch runners. I listen to runners stories. I tried running a 10K once in the 1980’s but didn’t like it.  I’ll run to catch something. I’ll run if I’m being chased. I’ll run if it’s something short and quick and involves using a ball.  I have family and friends that train for long distance runs. They travel all over to participate in events. I don’t have a distance runner’s mentality but appreciate the effort and energy of runners.

Recently I went with Newton Baker in support of his latest running challenge. I’ve known Newton for a long time and have taken pictures of him in various Vermont running events like the Vermont City Marathon, 100 on 100 and others. I’ve listened to him coach and talk about his running strategies for races. His strategies change depending on his goals and training. The run might be a training event for an important upcoming Ultra or a target for a personal best. He started telling me about an event he’d signed up for and I couldn’t believe he was going to do this alone. I believed he would and could do it, but not alone. The event is called The New England Challenge; 5 marathons, 5 states, 5 days.

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I didn’t ask him why because that’s not a running question. Runners know why. The rest of us can only wonder and guess and we’d be wrong most of the time. I wanted to go and support him and wanted to learn more about the mentality it takes to do something like this. I couldn’t see Newton finishing a race and then getting into his car to drive 100 miles, checkin to a hotel, getting meals, resting, and getting up at 4:30 am to do it again and again without help. I imagined him running, getting tired and driving in 6-lane traffic trying to find a hotel or restaurant. That part sounded insane but it’s not insane to people with a runners mentality. I learned that they know how to pace themselves not just in the race but in all other facets of endurance challenges.

I soon discovered that had I not gone with Newton that he would have been just fine and would not have been alone in this voyage. Many runners were doing The New England Challenge solo and they came from around the country. They had each other for support and managed to run the race, reach each location on time, complete the challenge and move on to the next challenge. Some of his Montpelier non-running friends doubted his motives and said things like they’d pray for him like he was going to war or suffering from some unusual illness or disease. They definitely didn’t have a runners’ mentality.

All races started at 6 a.m. and runners keep track of the number of laps by collecting rubber bands at the aid station for each lap completed. You can imagine what their wrists looked like at the end of the race with rubber bands digging into the skin leaving impressions. This was just another endurance challenge that was part of the races.

Those are some of the minor details about the New England Challenge but what did I learn about a distance runners’ mentality? I learned that I don’t understand what goes through their minds during a race. Just when they have come to the end of their endurance they seem to be able to go just a little further. I heard runners  mumble to themselves things like, “I’m almost there. I don’t have much left but I’ve gone this far so I might as well finish.”

I think it is a unique mindset that has a lot to do with a runners’ focus. It’s doesn’t seem to be something that just happens but is developed over a long period of time. The distance runners’ mind seems to be able to keep going when their body is telling them to stop. They seem to be able to focus through pain, muscular exhaustion and all kinds of weather. I watched Newton run in heat, cold, wind and rain. He ran on hard pavement, loose gravel, over roots sticking up in the trail and even battled the long gradual hills. He had a plan, a focus, and a desire to reach his goal. These are the results of the distance runners mentality but I’m still not sure what it is because I’m not a distance runner. I can only marvel at them and be glad that they endure.

Newton completed all the marathons in the New England Challenge during those 5 days. He recovered quickly from each event, rested as needed, and always searched for mashed potatoes. We headed home after the last rainy event and Newton was already preparing for his next marathon in two days, The Shires of Vermont in Bennington which, of course, he did and had the best performance of the week. He completed marathons in all six New England states seven days. Once that was done he was getting ready for the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington in 7 days. After resting for a week he ran his fastest of 8 marathons in two weeks in May.05_NB_Westfield_62

That’s a distance runners experience and Newton has a distance runners’ mentality. All us non-runners can shake our heads in wonder but will not understand until we start running! Until then appreciate and be glad for the accomplishments of distance runners everywhere. Happy National Running Day!

 

• • • By clicking on the name of the marathon you will find race results for that race. • • • 

• • • By clicking on the name of the venue you can learn about the various parks. • • • 

On Monday, May 12, Newton Baker ran the Pine Tree Marathon in Portland Maine. It was the first race in the New England Challenge. Each lap was 3.2 miles around Back Cove Bay. Much of the path was gravel and scenic. It was 78 degrees and sunny with occasional Atlantic coast breezes making running in the heat more bearable. Newton increased his pace the last 3 laps to avoid what the mid-day heat could do to him if he ran a slower pace.

Tuesday, May 13: Granite State Marathon in Mine Falls Park, Nashua, New Hampshire.  Five laps on a 5.08 trail with a variety of terrain; loose granular paths, pavement, hills. A short out and back at the beginning of .8 miles to make the required 26.2 distance for a marathon.

Wednesday, May 14: Red Island Marathon in Warwick City Park, Warwick, Rhode Island. This was a very scenic course. Nine laps of 2.7 miles plus a 1.9 mile out and back at the start. The course was on payment and mostly wooded. Much of the course overlooked Narragnsett Bay.

Thursday, May 15: Nutmeg State Marathon in Goodwin Park, Hartford Connecticut. Twelve laps of 2.08 miles plus a 1.24 mile out and back at the start the race. The course was mostly pavement with one long hill along the golf course.

Friday, May 16: Old Colony Marathon in Stanley Park, Westfield, Massachusetts. Twenty-two laps of 1.19 miles per lap. It rained most of the day and runners were soaked from head to toe.

 

RADIO INTERVIEW, TV NEWS REPORTS, PHOTOS AND VIDEOS OF NEWTON’S ADVENTURE:

  1. Fox44 & ABC22 News features Newton:
  2. The Barre Montpelier Times Argus mentions Newton:
  3. WVMT AM620 Talk Radio Show Interview:  Charlie, Ernie and Lisa Show
  4. WPTZ TV Stephen Watson sports

Crowley Photos Images • New England Challenge

Crowley Photos Short Videos • New England Challenge

  1. Portland Maine
  2. Nashua New Hampshire
  3. Warwick Rhode Island
  4. Hartford Connecticut
  5. Westfield Massachusetts

 

Written by Roger

June 4, 2014 at 8:58 PM

New England Challenge

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Newton Baker
Sunday, May 11, 2014, Newton Baker (72) and I will head to Portland Maine as he checks in for the first marathon in the New England Challenge; 5 marathons in 5 states in 5 days. The Pine Tree Marathon begins at 6AM Monday the 12th. Skeptics have their doubts, it’s what skeptics do and supporters are touting their hope as they wish for the best.

Regardless of how or why he chose to do this doesn’t really matter because runners run. Runners look for challenges, opportunities and events to expand their experiences. As ambitious as it sounds Newt seems to be of the attitude that this is not only doable but another milestone in his running career. He’s prepared and motivated. I’m looking forward to how he manages the week and accomplishes his goal.

Newton has participated in 162 marathons around the country. He has completed 20 USATF National Championship 24 Hour Runs and is a Hall of Famer participating in all 25 Key Bank Vermont City Marathons. Now he will add the New England Challenge to his resume.

Here’s the schedule:  (The New England Challenge website)

Pine Tree Marathon – Portland ME                      05/12/2014

Granite State Marathon – Nashua NH                 05/13/2014

Red Island Marathon – Warwick RI                      05/14/2014

Nutmeg St. Marathon – Hartford CT                    05/15/2014

Old Colony Marathon – Springfield MA               05/16/2014

I will document his accomplishments during the week and post images, comments and video each day so friends can follow his progress.

Stay tuned. This is going to be fun!

2006VCM_1272006VCM_122Newton BakerNewt Poster

Written by Roger

May 9, 2014 at 9:24 PM

Playoffs and the AUD

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The last week in February is vacation week for many schools in central Vermont and it’s Vermont girls basketball playoff week as well. The Vermont Principal’ Association listed the pairings, playoff and quarter final games were held until the final four were decided in all four divisions. The mismatches are history and now the fun begins as D2, 3 and 4 teams head to the AUD in Barre while D1 prepares for games at the Patrick Gym in Burlington.

While there are some great match-ups in D1, 2 and 4, my focus has been on D3. I’ve followed two team this year; Montpelier Solons 0-20 and Williamstown Blue Devils 20-0.

Montpelier skipped the playoffs and hopefully will get ready for next year by spending some time watching games and dreaming, “We’re going to the AUD!”

Here’s a photo slideshow as a tribute to the 8 Montpelier girls who showed up everyday to practice and played their hearts out even thought they could not compete in their league.

Tribute to MHS Girls Basketball Team

The Barre AUD

The AUD, Barre Municipal Auditorium, is the home of some of the greatest basketball games ever played in Vermont from grade school to semi-pro contests of the defunct Vermont Frost Heaves. It has been the home of Vermont State Basketball Championships since 1941. USA Today claims it’s one of the “Ten Great Places to Watch High School Hoops” in the United States. The first championship game was won by Randolph Galloping Ghosts over St. Michael’s of Montpelier, 26-14. Ticket prices were $.35 students and $.50 adults. There isn’t a bad seat in the house.

DVDphotos (0)

The girls D3 Semi-Final games will be held on Thursday (2/27/14). #1 Thetford faces #4 Enosburg Falls followed by #2 Williamstown and #3 Oxbow from Bradford. The Williamstown girls are a powerhouse team. They run the floor like no other team I have seen in quite some time. They press full court for the full game in most cases. They beat Bellows Falls 97-72 in the quarter final round. They play incredible defense, trapping, diving for loose balls, taking the charge and use a sideline fast break to perfection. They use the dribble rarely and with purpose. They fill lanes and pass quickly and accurately. They are so much fun to watch. I think their test will be against Thetford Academy in the championship game assuming they both win Thursday. I worked with Coach Eric Ward of Thetford back in the 80’s. His girls are prepared for the showdown but it’s the AUD and both teams face opponents looking to upset the two best teams in D3. Anything is possible especially at the AUD!

In 2012 I wrote a message to the Lady Solons of Montpelier as they prepared for post season games and I included an article that appeared in the Times Argus back in 1988; “Savoring The Anticipation – And Memory – Of A Playoff Game” by Stephanie Carter. It’s a timeless piece and worth reading again especially before championship games.

********************************************************************

 

A reprint from 1988 of Stephanie’s column in Beyond the Score. It’s as meaningful today as it was back then!

 

Thursday February 25, 1988  Barre-Montpelier Times Argus

 

“Savoring The Anticipation – And Memory – Of A Playoff Game” by Stephanie Carter

 

The Olympic Games were worlds away from Vermont last Saturday, but the pre game anticipation, tension and nervous stomachs of important competition were present in eight gymnasiums throughout the state as 16 girls’ basketball teams were gearing up for quarterfinal action.

 

Outside was a springlike thaw with cool temperatures and plenty of sunshine. But inside, amidst banners and corsages and fans clad in school colors, a brew of nerves simmered.

 

Inside the Locker Room

 

Twenty-five minutes before game time and ankles are being taped, warm-up jackets being put on and taken off. It’s players trying to act like it’s just another game after the coach just threw up in the bathroom.It’s drilling each other on which offense is “two” and which defense is “C”. It’s remembering where you go on the press.For seniors on the higher seeded teams, it’s realizing that this is the last time they’ll play on their home court. It’s the worry that this may be the last game of their career, period.

 

In the Stands

 

Nervous parents lean forward snapping gum and wringing hands. They’ve traveled to their kids’ games since sixth grade, trying to be supportive, while not over-emphasizing the importance of sports. It’s wanting their kids to do well, but wanting them to know they’re still O.K. if they don’t win, knowing that the next 24 hours will be a whole lot brighter if they do win. It’s wondering what their kids are going through. Younger brother and sisters have come along to cheer, not certain what “quarterfinal” means, but glad to be out of the house on a Saturday afternoon. Classmates arrive in a variety of dress and mood Many wear school colors and some carry signs. Others sit back cooly for the ride. They all hope that the team wins; it’s nice to have something concrete to cheer about at school.

 

Back Inside the Locker Room

 

Fifteen minutes before game time, and for most players, it’s a struggle between knowing that basketball is not the end-all and be-all of life, yet knowing that for the next hour-and-a-half, it will be. It’s wanting to give 100 percent and worrying that you’ll have a 65 percent game that just won’t cut it. It’s daydreaming about making a jumper at the buzzer to win the game by one; it’s the nightmare that you blew it at the foul line and lost the game. It’s intense sweat in a clean, ironed uniform, looking for tape to cover barrettes. It’s looking around at teammates who have been a major part of your life for four years, knowing that they won’t be next year. It’s realizing that you got only three hours of sleep last night, but you’re far from tired.

 

Out on the Floor

 

Twelve minutes to game time and one player emerges from the locker room to find a pack of gum, and then retreats. Another struts out to pick up the usual warm-up ball. The door closes again. Then the team comes out for real to receive the biggest pre-game applause they’ve ever heard. As they splinter into two lanes for layups, it’s wondering if this is the final warm up or does it go on from here? It’s trying to block out the microphones and wires of radio, ignoring cameras, while getting a charge that they’re there. It’s players stretching and giving adrenalin-filled “high fives.” The visiting team has traveled with it’s familiar tunes and plays them now for motivation and the comfort of continuity. They have never seen this particular gym before. For the home team, it’s wanting to go out in style, winning the final game on the same floor that has been the site of running laps and sit ups and scrimmages and new plays and pulled muscles for years. It’s sneaking glances at the other team, trying to pick out the star, convincing yourself that the six footer isn’t that tall.

 

The Final Huddle

 

Hands, freezing and shaky, join before the opening buzzer. Mouths drop open to reassure each other, but no one can understand what anybody’s saying (it’s just too noisy) until the final “Let’s Go.” Then, everybody knows what to do.

 

Vermont high school basketball tournaments are a chance for players to be stars. For most of those who participate, organized basketball will never again be a part of their lives, and they will never be in such good physical condition. But for 16 teams, a Saturday quarterfinal is a reward for hard work and learning about teamwork. It’s a chance to be in the spotlight.

 

For all of its pressure and mixed messages, a basketball quarterfinal is something that won’t ever be forgotten. It is one of those frozen moments, and no matter how far from the high school gym your life takes you, that game won’t ever be lost.

Written by Roger

February 24, 2014 at 10:29 AM