High school sports aren’t just about the highlights

Insider tip: this week’s Shreveport-Bossier Journal Coaches Roundtable question being pondered by local head football coaches is one they’re enjoying.

“What’s your favorite memory from your football playing career?” Read replies Wednesday.

For today’s local players, it’s easy to suggest a few answers.

  • The senior class at Captain Shreve may not top the end of last Thursday’ 35-28 triumph over arch-rival Byrd. The Gators scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, sandwiched around a fourth-and-2 stop of the Yellow Jackets with 5:04 left, down by 1. It was Shreve’s first win in the Backyard Brawl since 2019.
  • Captain Shreve’s Jamarlon “Bobo” Otis raced 66 yards for the game-winning touchdown one snap after that fourth-down stuff. In the huddle, when Otis heard the “21 Cut” play call, he told Gators’ quarterback Brodie Savage it was going to be a TD. Hey, Bobo, got any ideas about the winning Powerball numbers tonight?
  • Across the Red River, on the same night, Airline QB Ben Taylor tossed seven touchdown passes – in the first half. Even in the recent hyper-charged scoring locally, seven TD throws in a game is amazing. To do that before halftime, against an opponent of Benton’s caliber, is stupendous.
  • Coleman Pratt made an extra point for Haughton in the Bucs’ Sept. 8 win at LaGrange. So what, you’d say, if you hadn’t read John James Marshall’s wonderful “Pratt makes a point, turns Bucs’ win into a bigger deal” story on Sept. 13. If you haven’t, use the search button at the upper left of this page. Pratt has defied the odds and consistently refuses to accept he can’t do something because he’s extra short.

Those are just a few recent examples. One of the joys of high school sports is the ever-present opportunity for young people to be part of achievements that create lasting memories in their lives, and for others. Big victories, and smaller ones. Those on a scoreboard, and those among teammates.

But as much as you wish it was all hugs and high-fives, it’s not.

None of those feats above were conjured up. They resulted from hours, days, months and years of practice, summer workouts, strength and conditioning sessions, and often plenty of time studying game tape, and always, responding to coaching.

One of the most overused phrases in sports: “people don’t know.” In plenty of cases, we do. But it is hard for outsiders to fully appreciate the commitment level, the toughness, the work ethic, the sacrifices, and the ability to learn and improve required not only to produce timeless memories and highlight reel plays, but simply, to go compete game after game, win or lose.

It’s challenging to stick with it when a coach is pushing you harder than you like. To stay the course when the scoreboard sucks. Especially when it sucks game after game.

Respect players, coaches, trainers and managers who keep pushing forward for teams where winning is elusive. Respect kids who aren’t getting to play much, if at all. Or those playing in a role they don’t necessarily like.

The easiest thing is to quit. Some do. They walk away from the work they’ve put in, give up on the experiences they could have. Most often – there can be exceptions – it’s a selfish act to give up, and doing so can open the door to much more dire consequences down the road.

“At some point you’re going to have some adversity, and you have to handle it, you have to conquer it. That’s a life lesson.”  Those were words earlier last week from Captain Shreve coach Adam Kirby, reflecting on how the Gators reacted to a 61-27 walloping by Calvary Baptist a couple weeks earlier.

Those are words that many coaches, in every sport, have shared with their teams and players, for as long as balls have been placed on tees, nets have been strung up on rims, bats have been swung, stopwatches and tape measures have been used, and ankles have been taped.

They should be heeded much more often today than ever. Things go wrong. Decisions, seemingly unfair, get made. Strong words from authority figures are spoken – a.k.a. “real talk.” Pride and ego take a beating. Feelings get hurt.

It’s at least uncomfortable, tough to take. Instead of quitting, it’s infinitely more impressive to face it head on, to listen and learn, to hang in there.

Here’s another well-used coaches’ line: “if I’m on you, it’s because I know you can do better.”

That’s a coach’s job. Not only to make his guys better players, but to help teenagers to keep pushing through struggles, working to succeed.

Those are the victories that matter most. 

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com