Those thumping and squeaking noises you’ve been hearing are heralding the approach of a new basketball season. We, in west central and northwest Ohio, have a long standing love affair with the sounds of basketballs pounding and sneakers rubbing on gymnasium floorboards.
If this new season comes even close to the drama produced locally last season, we are in for a wild ride. Lima Central Catholic and Lima Senior High enjoyed historic success. Both played in state championship games. The T-Birds won the title and the Spartans fell just short of hoisting the gold trophy. The Lincolnview Lancers and Jackson Center Tigers joined them at state. The Ottawa-Glandorf girls played for a state title. In addition, a young Perry Commodore team set a new mark for wins on its way to the school’s first trip to the regionals. And to top it off, the Allen County Sharks won the Special Olympics state championship. It was a year to remember.
The level of talent playing locally has fueled the prosperity we have enjoyed. A partial listing of local players who continue playing basketball at the collegiate level proves that point: Austin Allemeier (Elida-ONU), Devon Allen (LSH-ONU), Konnor Baker (Ada-ONU), Noah Bramlage (O-G-Princeton), Tre Cobbs (LCC-Northern Kentucky), Josh Dixon (LCC-Heidelberg), Curt Geise (Delphos St. John’s-Capital), Andrew Grothaus (DSJ-Heidelberg), Bruce Hodges (Perry-Cuyahoga Community College), Martyce Kimbrough (LCC-Findlay), Trent Jones (Bath-OSU-Lima), Dakota Mathias (Elida-Purdue) Jaden O’Neal (Shawnee-Capital), Elijah Pughsley (LSH-Western Carolina), Andrew Renner (Bath-Bluffton), Xavier Simpson (LSH-Michigan), Trey Smith (Delphos Jeff-Air Force), Rico Stafford (LSH-Owens Community College), Kordell Stover (O-G-Bluffton), Taren Sullivan (Bath-Findlay), Nick Taflinger (LCC-Bluffton), Dantez Walton (LCC-Northern Kentucky), Marquevious Wilson (LSH-Owens Community College). It’s an impressive list. And it does not include those basketball players who chose to play football or other sports at the next level.
High school players who move up to play collegiately beat the odds. According to recent NCAA statistics, only 3.1 percent of high school basketball players will compete at the next level. So what does that mean for the 97 percent of players whose career ends in the last game of their senior year? It should mean exactly nothing. The goal of high school athletics is not to gain scholarships for those lucky enough to be in a position to be recruited. Education based athletics should simply be an extension of the classroom where participants can learn values such as teamwork, discipline, hard work, loyalty and resiliency. Those athletes who make it their goal to play at the next level should be encouraged and commended, but that is not the reason athletic programs exist in high schools. A very wise parent once told me that all he expected from me as a coach was to provide his son with a positive experience. “It’s not about him getting a scholarship or being on a championship team,” he told me. “When his high school career is finished, I want him to be a better person, a better man.” In an ever changing sports culture, that parent’s advice is a breath of fresh air.
There is no question that a successful athletic program can help build spirit and pride in a high school environment. We have witnessed that dynamic many times. But, in today’s changing world, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the primary duty of high schools is to provide an education. What happens in the classroom is much more important than what happens on the playing field or in the gymnasium. The tail can’t wag the dog. When it does, a school system has a serious problem on its hands. That doesn’t mean a school can’t have success across the board. In fact, if you identify the truly great high schools across the country, you will discover they demand excellence in everything they do, whether it be academics, art, music or athletics.
Student athletes competing in our area should count themselves as very lucky. They have the opportunity to compete in some terrific programs, in front of passionate fans and a media eager to share their stories. As long as the experience is kept in perspective, it’s a win, win for everyone.
Good luck to all area teams this season.
Contact Bob Seggerson at [email protected]