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Greatest coaches teach life lessons

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It was moments after his Richard Raiders had lost their Elementary Basketball League Tournament championship game in heartbreaking fashion to CSA Lincoln on Saturday that coach Chris Anderson made a rather shocking comment.

Surrounded by fifth- and sixth-grade girls with tears in their eyes, Anderson noted that his team hadn’t lost a game in two seasons and “maybe it’s a good thing we lost.”

In some areas of our very competitive country, Anderson would have gotten a baseball bat to the knee for such a comment. Isn’t second place just the best of all the losers?

Thank goodness for coaches who understand the lessons these kids learn go far beyond wins and losses.

Anderson’s comment applies whether we are talking about elementary school basketball players or the bully on the playground. Hey, bub, there’s always going to be someone out there bigger and badder than you.

Boxer Mike Tyson never learned that lesson. When Buster Douglas knocked him out, he was never the same again. He never had been taught to weather the storm.

Losing makes us appreciate winning. What’s the joy of getting to the top of the mountain if there is no struggle to get there?

If one thing was apparent at Columbus East High School, which hosted the EBL Tournament, it was that some excellent coaches are working to prepare these kids for adversity.

Whether you were watching CSA Lincoln’s win against Richards in the girls title game or Richards’ triumph against Schmitt in the boys game, it was easy to spot very good coaching on all the teams.

These were two tight, exciting, emotional contests; and no one, and I mean no one, folded. Oh sure, there were missed shots. We’re talking fifth- and sixth-graders.

But there was no panic, no “I’m going to do it all myself,” basketball.

One of my personal favorite moments came in the third quarter of the girls game. Lincoln was clinging to a 26-24 lead and was working its offense against Richards.

The Huskies’ main scorers had their hands on the ball, but they just didn’t have a shot. In the meantime, tiny fifth-grader Anna Hernandez did what she had been coached to do, perch herself under the basket while the opponent was attacking her team’s main scorers. The Huskies didn’t hesitate and fired the pass to Hernandez, who connected on the layup.

You hear about unselfish play and that great players make those around them better, and then you see an example play itself out right in front of your eyes. It makes you think that, whether Columbus East girls basketball coach Danny Brown or Columbus North coach Pat McKee gets a few of those players, our high school programs will be in good shape down the road. They have learned some of the most important lessons, and the technique can be improved over time.

The event itself was thrilling and well-attended, especially for the 9 a.m. first-game tipoff time. The EBL does a wonderful job of making sure everything runs smoothly and allowing the kids to get a taste of a big-time basketball environment.

That wouldn’t happen if people in the community didn’t support the event. Fortunately, that wasn’t a problem. The fans of all the teams packed into the gym and made the kind of noise usually reserved for a North-East varsity basketball game.

At Richards, which has won the past two boys titles, the girls title in 2013 and a runner-up girls finish this year, fourth-grade teacher Greg Morris stirred up excitement during the week at the school.

Morris urged his student body to put together at least 100 students to root for the teams on Saturday. Richards agreed to pay the admission for the students to attend.

He also issued the following statement, “Our Rowdies don’t do anything derogatory toward the other teams. We only cheer for Richards.”

The lessons continue.

Richards’ Rowdies showed up in full force, faces painted, hair dyed, banners constructed. The other schools produced just as many fans, whose beaming colors would have put a rainbow to shame.

No doubt it was a winning environment, no matter the score.

Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at or 379-5632.

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