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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Good Sport

Last night marked the annual all-sports banquet of Heatly High School. Athletic teams representing participants from grades 7-12 were recognized as teams and individuals. Each coach presented team members and acknowledged the accomplishments of the team and distributed awards to distinguishing performers. The Heatly Booster Club organized the event and evidenced a remarkable job of producing a wonderful evening for a packed house at the local American Legion Hall.

In terms of wins and losses, there were highs and lows throughout the various sports campaigns. Yet even among those teams that were challenged to gain victories, there were stories of perseverance and commitment that served as important lessons. The coaches were encouraging and supportive.

The program featured the display of the league championship banner earned by the undefeated Heatly girls basketball team. There were also honors for a number of different athletes that garnered inclusion on the Central Hudson Valley League all star teams in soccer, basketball, baseball, and softball. And, in my opinion, beyond the wins, the biggest victory celebrated during the program was the introduction of the scholar athlete teams that were recognized by the state athletic association in response to a cumulative team grade point average in excess of 90. Our girls varsity soccer, girls varsity basketball, and boys varsity basketball each were accorded this extraordinary status. Furthermore, there were awards for athletes who excelled in the classroom (90 or above grade point average among all courses during a sports season) for two or three sports seasons. The athletic director noted that the contingent of scholar athletes called up for that recognition was the largest number in quite some time. These individuals responded with determination and success to the challenge extended to them way back on the second day of school when I met with the entire body of high school learners and prompted them to seek excellence in the classroom, not just on the playing fields and basketball courts. Athletic success was a great goal but winning in the future job market was an even more noble venture. They have made us all proud and have raised the standard for succeeding years of performance.

In an interesting note on the influence and breadth of sports, basketball, which after soccer may be the most international of sports, was the subject of one of the first emails I received from my son only days after his arrival in Mongolia as a Peace Corps volunteer. Basketball has spread far beyond the borders of our country since James Naismith was credited with inventing the sport in Springfield, Massachusetts. A review of NBA rosters will reveal a growing number of players who represent many different countries. Well, my son, who was an important contributor to his high school team that won 17 games in a row all the way to the New York Section II championship game, discovered the reaches of basketball when he and a few fellow Peace Corps volunteers happened upon a group of players on a court in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar. He described the outcome of the pick-up game between Americans and Mongolians in his own words - "Dad, we were schooled!"

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