Archive for Thursday, March 6, 2008

Opinion: Missing the message

March 6, 2008

A column that appeared on The Current's Web site over the weekend struck a nerve with some people in the community, and in the process it seems some missed the message.

So let me clarify.

First, to summarize, the column focused on events surrounding the Lansing High boys basketball team's 58-42 loss to Topeka Seaman in the Class 5A substate finals on Friday night. Prior to the game, five players showed up late to the team's shoot-around. I learned this information from talking to parents and other spectators in the stands prior to the game. The tardiness altered the team's starting lineup, and the Lions fell into an early hole. The game never was very close. The lone bright spot was the play of senior Stephen Didde, a blue-collar type of player who has been known throughout Lansing for four years as the classic team player. He's as team-first of a guy as I've ever covered or played with, and he had one of the best games of his career.

Coach Rod Briggs did not bring up the subject after the game. I asked directly about it, because it seemed like a situation other Lansing athletes in all sports could learn from.

Some people interpreted the column to be a way of smearing those who were late, but that is where the message was missed. I've known some of those young men for almost four years now. I know them to be good guys, and I've seen them be good leaders and teammates in a number of sports. They were not named in the column, because names aren't important. In fact, the sport of basketball isn't really important to the column's intent.

The point of that column is for Lansing athletes to think.

Specifically, think about teammates.

What is your obligation to your teammates? What do you expect from them? What should they expect from you?

Six spring sports have begun practice at LHS, and the first official competition is a tennis tournament on March 26 at Mill Valley. That gives spring athletes a little less than three weeks to prepare for action. Conditioning and tactical skills obviously will be part of that preparation, but I encourage athletes to use some of that time to reflect on their teammates, how they can help you meet your goals and how you can help them succeed.

Maybe you don't like your coach or a kid on your team. So be it. You still have responsibilities. What are they?

Nobody's perfect. Good people and good teammates slip up once in a while. That doesn't make them a bad person, but the actions of an individual impact everybody on a team. You can't control illness or injury or whether every shot will go in, but think about what you can control: Don't forget your shin guards and cleats; bring an extra jacket to that chilly tennis tournament.

Learn from your peers' missteps as well as their successes.

Look at the 2007 Lansing High volleyball team's selfless nature. Admire the seniors who accepted reserve roles in the best interest of their team, and admire their willingness to sacrifice for each other. Those, matched with talent, were key factors in posting the most wins in school history and earning a fourth-place finish at state.

Look at the cross country team and its crop of runners that committed to summer running. Their commitment allowed them to win a league championship and advance to state.

Watch the LHS baseball team this spring to witness the payoff of two straight offseasons of commitment to weights and conditioning.

Look at the boys basketball team's ferocious intensity when it blew out Atchison in the Tonganoxie Invitational Tournament championship game. See if you can match that effort.

Don't forget the importance of academics. The girls soccer team certainly hasn't. The Lions are recipients of a national team academic award three years running. Each year they've received it, their team grade-point average has risen - most recently to a record high of 3.68 in 2007. No ineligibility concerns here. Coincidentally, that team had the best season in school history as it advanced to the state quarterfinals.

Every team has examples, and we can learn from them all. A mistake, if learned, can be a positive for everybody.

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