February marks the last full month of winter and with it being the shortest month of the year, it would seem easy to get through. It’s not always an easy task though. The anticipation of warmer spring temperatures often makes it appear that the month drags on and on to the point where some people practically wish the month away in order to return to the spring season. Luckily there is something to help survive the wait.
Instead of wishing your life away, which as you grow older doesn’t seem like a good thing to do, finding a way to enjoy the last weeks of winter is key to getting though it. Putting a positive spin on an otherwise dreary situation (February), there is something also grand about this short month. The ending of regular basketball seasons and then gearing up for high school and college tournaments helps to ease the pain of still more cold temperatures to linger.
College hoops fans are now focused on the ever changing rankings of the big college teams. Locally, IU basketball is a hot topic, unless you happen to be a die-hard Boilermaker and thus detest the Indiana Hoosiers. In that case, many Purdue fans may be watching the Butler Bulldogs closely. No matter where your allegiance may rest, cheering the smaller Butler school is what basketball in Indiana is all about. Watching an underdog knock out big teams is what makes the sport truly enjoyable. It is unfortunate that the IHSAA class system took that thrill away from high school ball. Even still, it is an enjoyable time.
This past weekend the Rushville Lady Lions became sectional champs and so tournament fever is high locally. The boys will end regular season in a couple weeks and be set for tournament play as well. Bittersweet for me this year will be that the final home game for the boys team will mark the end of watching my middle son play in Memorial gym. It will be quite a few years before the next group of family members is ready to hit the high school courts, but still all is not lost.
Just like college basketball where one does not need to personally know a player on the team in order to enjoy the action, local high school ball provides good entertainment during the winter months. I am sure the players and coaches appreciate any and all fan support. The players work hard to be on the team and keep their grades and so showing them some appreciation is nice encouragement.
I have noticed through the years that the gym seating does not fill up like in the past. My earliest recollections are from when my older brother played during the coaching years of Ken Pennington and Larry Angle. As I remember it, the gymnasium was usually full during games. During that same time, the cheerleaders had the help of many parents who regularly helped to shout out the cheers for the team. Things are a little different now.
For sure, class basketball took a little excitement away from the sport but locally, I think a larger cause for losing fan base came from the closing of schools and moving all junior high students to one environment.
Back in the day when there were several local schools, grades K-8, many boys played on an organized school team and thus created a local community following on into high school. Likewise, our high school teams are no longer produced from a lot of players who had the chance to develop in junior high, thus creating the powerhouse teams of the past.
In our current times, the middle school coaches take their best chances at selecting, and cutting, student players who have not yet developed full potential. It’s a tricky situation and doesn’t always pay off. Players chosen may not progress as anticipated. As well, students who were cut may have ended up being good players, but after being cut the likelihood of them trying out again was very slim. Progress can sometimes work both ways, for the good and for the bad.
Regardless of what local basketball once was or where it is today, the game does provide a way to enjoy the cold days of winter while waiting the return of warmer spring weather. An extended benefit is that the encouragement from the community is a healthy way to demonstrate the value placed on our students who strive to be involved in healthy activities, both physically and mentally. In that regard, supporting student athletes, student band members, and other student club activities really serves a dual purpose for all members of our community.
Good luck to all the student athletes!