Athletics are teaching positive lesssons
Tuesday, September 10, 2013 10:00 PM
I never cease to be impressed by the positive lessons taught by athletic competition.
Frank has reported on the news, events and people of west-central Indiana for years. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our schools do a wonderful job with their athletic programs and educational value comes through the example of the fine men and women who lead those programs.
This pause to reflect on such things was brought on by Friday's cross-county rivalry between North Montgomery and Southmont high schools.
I have been in awe of North's football coach Charley German for years. For more than a decade, I have been amazed at the football program at North and all that he was able to lead his players to accomplish as he led them to victory after victory. But, often, true character is best seen not in victory but in defeat.
I have to say, I was impressed with German after Friday night's 28-27 victory on Southmont at North's home field.
"Could you tell me where Coach German is?" I asked one man.
"He's out at mid-field," he said, pointing to two figures about 60 yards away.
I guess I wondered if he would scurry away after the loss to find some garbage can to kick or some player to impress with colorful language and yelled accusations.
Instead, he was calmly talking to a reporter and then took time for my few questions.
German didn't make excuses for the loss, he didn't try to defend his players; he went into some detail to say in effect, "They played better than we did."
That was the first game against Southmont that North Montgomery lost in overtime in the history of both schools. It had to be a bitter pill for the coach to swallow.
Southmont football coach Desson Hunnum is another fine example to his players and to the whole student body.
I interviewed him after the opener, that Southmont lost at home, and Friday after Southmont's magnificent win.
After the loss two weeks ago, Hannum patiently described what needed to happen in practice if his kids were to get better on the field and win games.
Friday night, he praised his team for victory and described his halftime strategy to get them into winning mode after a first half that saw North Montgomery leading 14-0.
Always the teacher, he explained to the team what had happened and what need to be done to win.
These men remind me of the wrestling coach at my high school.
I would never be a star athlete. I was too small to play football (our team was a state champion) and too short to play basketball. My dad had been a high school athlete, though not a very good one, so I experimented with athletics by trying out for the wrestling team.
Week after week I trained to exhaustion and rode the bus and sat on the bench, watching my teammates get their chance against grapplers from other schools.
The thing I remember about coach Ed Weese was that he was also our gym teacher. He always sat on a bench outside the locker room as students entered to change for gym class.
One day he stopped me.
"Terry," he said, "Your grades have been slipping. You need to get them up."
Wow. I didn't think he knew my name, much less cared about my educational performance.
I never did wrestle varsity or JV that year and I ended up with a hernia for my effort. But I got my grades up because coach said I should.
Hats off to the men and women who teach much more by their example on the field or in the gym than they ever will in the classroom.
I think it was the next year this kid was put in typing class instead of motor mechanics as a last-minute curriculum change. I learned to type and a career was born, but that's another story.