NEW CASTLE — “The guys played hard. They gave everything you expect this team to give. I don’t care if it’s a fall-league game, a summer-league game or the western final, if you come to watch the New Castle basketball team play, you will see the same effort, focus and intensity night after night.”
We were watching.
The kids came out in droves.
And I’m glad those fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders were glued to the action.
Here’s what they saw from Shawn, Malik, Tone, Brandon, Anthony, Drew, Stew and Jesse.
•They saw when you dived on the floor for loose balls.
•They saw when you hustled to the bench for a timeout.
•They saw when you looked your coach in the eye.
•They saw when you cheered on your teammates and pointed to them when they gave you a nice pass.
•They saw when you didn’t always make a great play, but you always made the RIGHT play.
•They saw the high-fives, the piggy back rides, the chest bumps and the smiles.
•They saw you play with passion.
•They saw you play with joy.
•They saw you play with consistency.
•Every game. Every possession.
“I’m going to miss those guys. I don’t know if I wanted them to win the state championship as bad as I really just wanted to coach them for four more days.”
Don’t tell me sports can’t teach us a better way to live.
Punctuality. Discipline. Toughness. Courage. Persistence. Selflessness. Building and maintaining relationships.
I know, I know — sports reveals the character of those who are in the heat of competition. Maybe. But it also instills character in those coming after.
So to all the moms and dads who lugged their kids to all the games, through all the snow and sleet and road construction, be heartened: The lessons your children learned by watching this team play are priceless.
Just be patient.
All of your young men and women will find their way in just a few short years because of a few young men who blazed yet another new trail of excellence.
Maybe your kids won’t win a WPIAL title with an unbeaten mark.
Maybe they won’t be considered among the best teams in their school’s history.
Maybe they won’t appear on posters in another child’s bedroom.
But they will play.
Hard. Tough. Smart. Relentless.
And they will enjoy the ride. Oh, will they enjoy the ride.
And they’ll look back to 2013. That’s the year their interest in basketball erupted into a white-hot passion.
All the camps they’ll now attend. All the instruction they’ll now crave. All the AAU tournaments in gyms far and wide.
You can blame it all on Ralph, the vision caster and the maestro of this year’s exhilarating run.
And you’ll thank him, too.
Especially when your kids are walking across the stage in their robes and moving the tassel from the right to the left on their mortarboard.
Then you’ll smile.
And you’ll wish you could do it all over again.
Just like you feel today.