The real sports action in Fort Collins doesn’t take place in Hughes Stadium. It doesn’t happen in Moby Arena, either. If you want to see the real thing, stop by Bauder Elementary School any given Saturday to see the St. Joseph’s Cougars fifth-grade basketball team. With extraordinary commitment, desire and teamwork, these nine boys showed their coach (this humbled columnist) what sports is all about.
It all started back in January when one of my roommates and I decided it might be fun to coach a youth sports team. We remembered all the miserable experiences we had with our own youth sports coaches, who didn’t believe that fun was part of the game, and decided that we could definitely do a better job. Before we knew it, we were in the St. Joseph’s gym at the first practice of the year with nine wide-eyed 11-year-olds who were wondering what we were going to do for an hour and a half. We wondered the same thing.
We quickly learned, however, the character of our young team. The boys actually wanted to learn the game of basketball, instead of just playing knockout (although we did play our fair share of knockout). We were blown away by the support they had for each other and their willingness to learn new plays and the fundamentals of the game. My roommate and I weren’t sure who was having more fun – the kids or us.
Sitting at the bar on a Friday night trying to devise a starting line-up for the first game, we had no idea what to expect. Would they remember the plays? Would we get berated or attacked by the parents? Who wasn’t going to be there?
Our fears proved to be unfounded as the Cougars marched to an opening day victory. From there, the team went on to have one of the most prolific seasons in the history of Fort Collins Parks and Recreation basketball (believe me, just ask the kids). In fact, we did have a great season in terms of wins and losses, but the real measure of our success was being able to watch the kids have fun and grow as players and people.
The Saturday morning games were difficult to wake up for, but it was all worth it to see Brandon score after calling his own number or Mike haul down another rebound and then run down the court yawning. And I wouldn’t have wanted to miss Joe score a miraculous bucket in the paint, or Tyler shut down a bigger, stronger opponent on defense. I definitely looked forward to watching C.J. running the offense and picking off passes, as well as Graham faking out a defender on the backdoor play. And the team wouldn’t have gotten by without Eric hustling on every play and Alex scoring from everywhere, or Dashiell doing everything the team needed.
So next time you are yearning for some real sports action – where the game is played for the fun of the sport and there is still no I in TEAM – check out the St. Joseph’s Cougars on Saturday mornings next season.