Archive for Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Opinion: Can it be? 25-0?

December 13, 2006

If current results are any indicator of future success, the Basehor-Linwood School District has basketball bliss heading its way.

And I'm not just talking about this year's Lady Bobcats, currently ranked No. 4 in Class 4A.

Heck, I'm not even talking about the upstart boys basketball team that nearly knocked off Class 6A foe Olathe East last week and is currently riding a two-game winning streak into its Friday showdown with Mill Valley.

I'm talking about middle school basketball. I don't do it very often, mostly because we don't always have the space or the time to devote to the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade sports. But this was a group I just couldn't ignore.

Last week, Chris Shelby's Basehor-Linwood Middle School eighth-grade girls basketball team wrapped up an undefeated season with a 42-10 victory over Piper and a first-place finish at the Monticello Trails Middle School hoops tournament.

It was the 25th straight win for this particular group of girls, a feat unmatched in the history of sports at Basehor-Linwood.

The 25 wins didn't all come this season. But that's the part that makes it so impressive. For two straight seasons the BLMS Lady Bulldogs stepped onto the court without losing. The took on a variety of challengers along the way -- league foes, tournament foes, you name it -- and nobody beat them.

Teams like this don't come along very often. Undefeated seasons rarely happen, let alone undefeated careers. When they do, it's hard to pinpoint exactly why they do. But it's entirely likely that this group achieved greatness because of its balanced approach to the game.

During the recent eighth-grade season, Shelby emphasized team play and concentrated effort. One of his favorite motivational speeches went something like this: "Leave no doubt in your mind that you did everything possible to play as a team and try to win the game. Leave it all on the floor."

Words such as those are not uncommon in sports, but these girls took them to heart. They did leave everything they had on the floor and when they were finished they had a sparkling 25-0 record to show for it.

But it wasn't just motivation from their coach and superb fundamentals that led this team to an undefeated career. That alone would not have gotten it done. In addition to textbook jump shots and perfect bounce passes, these girls executed flawlessly in one of the game's most important areas -- having fun.

Before the season began, when the coaches handed out uniforms, Shelby and assistant coach Larry Booth showed up wearing BLMS game shorts from the 1980s.

"They were really short and not very comfortable," Shelby said.

And they got the job done. To this day, several girls still laugh about the stunt and many of them have pictures of that hilarious day.

With that, the coaches' message sank in. It's great to win, but it can be equally as great to just have fun. As high school and middle school sports turn more competitive each year, so many teams, coaches and parents forget that part of the equation.

It's an extremely important lesson to learn and it can be difficult to carry over from one level to the next. But I'm guessing this group won't have any trouble.

Finishing with an undefeated mark is great, but doing it because the team knew how to have fun makes the achievement even more enjoyable.

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