This past week marked the final march to the tournament for many high school basketball teams around the state. Some will play in preliminary round contests while others have punched their tickets to tournament sites in Bangor, Augusta, or Portland.
Others played out the string, so to speak, trying to build towards next season. Such was the case with the John Bapst boys. Due to the weather of the past two weeks, the Crusaders were tasked with playing four games in four nights to conclude the regular season. There would not be a post-season berth in the balance. When the season ended for John Bapst on Friday, the boys found themselves with an 0-18 record at the end of the campaign. The JV boys team also did not win a game the entire season.
This season marked my 20th with the John Bapst basketball program. Starting out as an assistant varsity coach under Bob Cimbollek, I moved on to coach the freshman and junior varsity teams later on. Following the 2008 season, I realized I had my fill of coaching but still wanted to remain involved. Since then I have been the scorekeeper for both the boys and girls programs.
If you have followed this space for any length of time you know I believe the high school athletics experience is about much more than the game results. You see, 0-18 only begins to tell a small part of the story with this group. Below is what I would like to say to the team to wrap up the season:
Dear Fellow Crusaders
I feel privileged to have watched you play over the course of the season. From the scorers table I saw you compete for eighteen regular season games, eighteen times falling short on the scoreboard. Looking through a narrow lens, this may seem like a failed season. When I widen the lens, I see much more, so much more.
I saw a group of young men who represented the school with such dignity and class. In working the scorers table all season, I can’t begin to tell you the number of people who made comments regarding your outstanding sportsmanship. I saw a team, through adversity on the court, come together and pull for each other. I observed many of you, when an opponent was knocked down, you reached down and helped them up.
To Coach Rick Sinclair and the entire coaching staff: I can’t think of a better person or people to have guided this group all season. Despite the difficulties on the court you remained upbeat, recognizing the little victories along the way. Your positive outlook was exactly what the team needed. At the same time you held everyone to high standards of conduct. Your perspective helped these players see the big picture.
Speaking of Coach Sinclair, I can’t begin to tell you young men how impressed I was when I heard you took the time one evening to attend his five year old son Bryan’s pee-wee basketball game. In the middle of exam week, you unselfishly took time out of your schedules to do that. I know it meant the world to him. Coach has continually commented how Bryan absolutely adores the entire team. What great role models he has to look up to! Never lose sight of the fact little eyes are watching you.
To the JV players: When I got done coaching seven years ago, I thought I had put my coaching hat away for good. I had lost perspective and was simply burnt out. I want to thank Coach Adam Grant for giving me the opportunity to help out in practice when my schedule allowed. I treasured the limited amount of time I got to spend working with you. In my twenty years associated with the program, you are unequivocally the nicest group of people I’ve ever been involved with. I was so impressed with your attentiveness and willingness to learn. Oh, and you improved immensely on the court as well.
To our two seniors, Tom Feng and Tom Hanscom: Mr. Feng, I’m impressed with the way you came back, missing your entire junior season to a knee injury. It also cannot be easy adjusting to a culture different from your native China. You did a great job and blended well into our program.
To Tom Hanscom: I’ve watched you grow over the years from a quiet kid to an outgoing, confident young man. We’ve shared many moments through our love of sports together over the past few years and many laughs along the way.
Best of luck to each of you in whatever path you choose for yourselves. I know you will both be successful in whatever you pursue.
Many following an 0-18 season would want to forget everything that transpired and just move on. Don’t do that. Look back and be proud of the way you represented yourselves and your school. For those of you returning to the program next year, allow the bitterness of defeat to motivate you in the off-season. The scoreboards will still be operational next season. As former NFL coach Herm Edwards said, “Hello, you play to win the game”!
While we play to win the game, high school athletics is about much more than wins and losses. It is about learning life lessons that cannot be taught in the classroom. It is about perseverance when circumstances don’t go your way. We all will face challenges in life that will be much more daunting than what transpires on the basketball court. Hopefully when trials pop up in your lives down the road, you can look back and apply something you learned from your athletics experience.
In closing, I want to say what a privilege it has been to get to know many of you on a personal level over the past season. While we certainly have had seasons more productive from a wins and losses standpoint, I can’t remember being more proud of a group of young people. This speaks volumes to your character and the way your parents have raised you. Thank you once again for the way you represented John Bapst basketball in 2014-15. Despite what the record says, you are all winners in my eyes.
Bob Beatham Jr.
Recently, Penquis Valley boys basketball coach Jason Mills’ eleven year old son, Zak was found with a tumor around his wrist. A subsequent biopsy found the tumor to be cancerous.
The Mills family does have heath insurance. As most of you are painfully aware, not all medical and related expenses are covered by health insurance. If you are reading this, would you please consider making a donation to help this family? A fund has been set up through the Milo Recreation Department to help with Zak’s expenses. For a minimum donation of ten dollars you can receive a t-shirt which reads “Minor Setback for a Major Comeback, Team Shark Bait”
I had the privilege of spending seven years as Jason’s assistant coach when he was at John Bapst. Each year during the preseason parent-player meeting he would outline priorities each team member should follow. Those priorities in order were family, school, and basketball. It wasn’t just something he preached but I watched him live it. As fine a coach as he is, he is a better husband and father. For that, he has always had my utmost respect. He and his wife Andrea also have a daughter in her late teens, Jordyn, who has special needs and requires round the clock care.
Zak is a tough kid who competes in soccer and basketball. His goal is to get through this and be on the field this fall for the start of soccer season. I and many others send best wishes that this may happen.
If you would like to make a donation you may send a check to:
Milo Recreation Department
PO Box 218
Milo, ME 04463
T-shirts are available in both adult and youth sizes. On the check, specify the money is to go to Zak’s fund as well as what size shirt you would like.