Coaching hoops from the heart

February 1, 2019 | By More

Rogue dandelions bloom in the yard as jonquils push their Kelly green shoots toward the strengthening sun. Cardinals sit high in tree tops singing to the sunshine. You almost forget it’s still winter. But the next day, we’re all huddled around the heater while frigid winds whip the bare branches and cold gray clouds cover the skies like an arctic blanket. Spring is still a distant dream. February seems to be a month without a season. But thankfully, regardless of the weather, February is always basketball season.

It may not be well known outside of the region, but the River Valley has always been a hotbed for hoops. Of course the big obvious is the Big Nasty. I watched Corliss play in college and the pros, and up close once at the lock and dam. Arkansas Tech University has a storied history of championship teams; it seems like the Golden Suns won a championship every other year during the 80s and 90s and into the 2000s.

Area high school teams have also shown up and shown out in state tournaments through the decades, and local dominance among the smaller schools has always been interesting. Though there are down years, seems like every school has a winning tradition.

I remember back in my high school days wondering how tiny Hector always seemed to put a bunch of six-foot-plus boys who knew how to play on the court. How did the Atkins girl’s teams always seem to send one or two players on to college ball? And ever since the Randy Smith and then Ricky Smith days of the 70s and 80s, Pottsville boys basketball has often been a force to be reckoned with.

I’ve often thought the secret to small town basketball success could be found within the hearts of community volunteers. And our cover story on Monty Peters confirms my suspicions.

If you’ve ever done a stint as a pee wee basketball coach (and I have), you know it’s a handful. Not only do you have to manage practice, game, and concession stand schedules, you’ve also got to manage parents, referees, and the variety of personalities found in a bunch of prepubescent kids. And you often do it with little to no thanks.

But let me say right here and now that I’m thankful for volunteers like Monty Peters. We need more coaches that can teach our kids not only how to play the game, but how to share their passions, how to compete with honor, and how to give back to our communities.

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