I referreed the JV Boys Basketball game between Oshkosh West and Kimberly on Friday night. In the closing minutes of a one-sided contest, West Head Coach Jason Fahrney cleared his bench--getting in some of his (let's use the politically correct term) "project players".
Before one of West's final possessions, Coach Fahrney called over one of his guards to the sidelines and talked to him about something. As the ball came down court, that player ran off a high screen, got open at the top of the key, took a pass and nailed a three-pointer. I don't know if that was the player's first basket of the year or maybe his first three pointer--but let's just say he was very excited about scoring that basket (as were most of the players on the bench). As he headed back to the other end, that player pointed to Coach Fahrney on the bench--and both broke out into huge smiles. And in that moment, I was reminded about all that is great about sports.
It wasn't a game winning shot, but for that young man that three point shot represented the culmination of plenty hard work at practice every week--with no guarantee of any playing time. To have Coach Fahrney run a play specifically to give that player the opportunity to make that hard work pay off will give him a boost in self-confidence that few other outlets can provide. And the reaction shared by player and coach shows again the influence that a positive adult role model can have on the life of young men and women.
So forget about Penn State, overbearing parents, basketball brawls and now Ryan Braun. That three point shot in an already-decided JV basketball contest is why we play the games.