Follow Speidel: Play with integrity

The Friday before his terrible auto accident, Josh Speidel came out of the Bull Dogs’ locker room following his team’s 60-57 loss to Southport to speak with me.

This was a game that decided the Conference Indiana title, and it was simply a terrific high school basketball game, a knock-down, drag-out affair from beginning to end.

I asked Speidel what he thought made the difference in the game.

“I didn’t show up,” he said.

Those who know Speidel understand that he is all about responsibility. I told him that I thought he played a pretty darned good game. He said he should have played better.

That was the attitude that makes him a great high school player. He takes the load on his shoulders, and away he goes.

Today, play begins in the girls high school sectional playoffs, and I know these athletes do so with heavy hearts as Speidel continues to fight for his life in critical but stable condition at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis following the Feb. 1 crash.

As I have traveled to various games since that accident, it is evident that everyone in our area, not just city, has been deeply affected. The joy of playing the game has taken a hit as we have a far more serious matter on our minds and in our hearts.

Those of us who have had casual contact with his fine, young man can’t imagine the incredible agony his family and close friends are experiencing as each day passes. Yet, Speidel touched so many other lives as well.

Just being a local sportswriter, I think of Josh several times a day, forcing my mind to wander while emotions cloud my mind. It’s hard to think of anything else. I’m sure many people in the community, who had occasional contact with him as I did, feel the same way.

I can’t imagine how basketball players at Columbus North and Columbus East high schools, both boys and girls, can concentrate on the games at hand. All those players, along with those at Hauser and Columbus Christian, and those in programs in nearby communities, have grown up playing on the same basketball teams as Speidel or against him or at least have spent a lot of time watching him.

These teams, and especially the Columbus North girls, 22-1 and ranked No. 2 in the final Indiana Basketball Coaches Association poll, must find a way to step away from their grief and concern for their classmate and friend. They have to clear their minds during these two-hour windows so they can concentrate on their own goals.

North seniors Debie Gedeon, Sheyanne Street, Ali Patberg, Sydney Patberg and Hannah Poindexter have one final chance to win a state championship, and that is, no matter what is happening around them, a goal of tremendous importance.

My advice during a difficult time would be to follow Speidel’s lead. When things get tough, take responsibility for yourself. Be accountable to your teammates.

If our area athletes follow that example, their teams will be just fine.

I can’t think of a better way to honor Speidel.

Jay Heater is the sports editor of The Republic. He can be reached at jheater@therepublic.com