The last week in February is vacation week for many schools in central Vermont and it’s Vermont girls basketball playoff week as well. The Vermont Principal’ Association listed the pairings, playoff and quarter final games were held until the final four were decided in all four divisions. The mismatches are history and now the fun begins as D2, 3 and 4 teams head to the AUD in Barre while D1 prepares for games at the Patrick Gym in Burlington.
While there are some great match-ups in D1, 2 and 4, my focus has been on D3. I’ve followed two team this year; Montpelier Solons 0-20 and Williamstown Blue Devils 20-0.
Montpelier skipped the playoffs and hopefully will get ready for next year by spending some time watching games and dreaming, “We’re going to the AUD!”
Here’s a photo slideshow as a tribute to the 8 Montpelier girls who showed up everyday to practice and played their hearts out even thought they could not compete in their league.
The AUD, Barre Municipal Auditorium, is the home of some of the greatest basketball games ever played in Vermont from grade school to semi-pro contests of the defunct Vermont Frost Heaves. It has been the home of Vermont State Basketball Championships since 1941. USA Today claims it’s one of the “Ten Great Places to Watch High School Hoops” in the United States. The first championship game was won by Randolph Galloping Ghosts over St. Michael’s of Montpelier, 26-14. Ticket prices were $.35 students and $.50 adults. There isn’t a bad seat in the house.
The girls D3 Semi-Final games will be held on Thursday (2/27/14). #1 Thetford faces #4 Enosburg Falls followed by #2 Williamstown and #3 Oxbow from Bradford. The Williamstown girls are a powerhouse team. They run the floor like no other team I have seen in quite some time. They press full court for the full game in most cases. They beat Bellows Falls 97-72 in the quarter final round. They play incredible defense, trapping, diving for loose balls, taking the charge and use a sideline fast break to perfection. They use the dribble rarely and with purpose. They fill lanes and pass quickly and accurately. They are so much fun to watch. I think their test will be against Thetford Academy in the championship game assuming they both win Thursday. I worked with Coach Eric Ward of Thetford back in the 80’s. His girls are prepared for the showdown but it’s the AUD and both teams face opponents looking to upset the two best teams in D3. Anything is possible especially at the AUD!
In 2012 I wrote a message to the Lady Solons of Montpelier as they prepared for post season games and I included an article that appeared in the Times Argus back in 1988; “Savoring The Anticipation – And Memory – Of A Playoff Game” by Stephanie Carter. It’s a timeless piece and worth reading again.
Back in January 2011 I wrote a piece titled “Where Have the Fans Gone.” It was about the change in MHS sports culture and lack of community support from students and teachers at sporting events. Not too long ago the MHS gym would have been full of raucous basketball fans. They were wild and full of excitement. Slowly this began to change, not just in basketball but all sports at MHS. It seemed a sign of things to come. Not only were things changing at MHS but in central Vermont. So why the change in sports at MHS? Where have the Fans Gone? In fact, Where have the Athletes Gone?
Since writing that piece community support for competitive sports has been greatly lacking and the quality of skill in students-athletes is also lacking. Fewer and fewer kids are playing competitive sports. Montpelier no longer has a football team; they used to dominate the league. No longer is there a girls softball team. The softball field behind the school is used as a parking lot for the Farmers’ Market or other non-school events. Also, boys and girls hockey no longer exists at MHS. The Vermont Principals Association allows MHS students wanting to play hockey to join the Northfield teams. Track and Field is now an independent sport and the few student-athletes with interest train with U32 High School. There are a couple of programs at MHS survving the sports culture change; tennis and soccer. Tennis has an off-season connection to First and Fitness Racquet Club and soccer benefits from the developing players in the Capital Soccer Club.
I remember the day when close to eighty-five student-athletes competed in track/field under coaches Rome Aja, Charlie Phillips and Ed Skea. It was an amazing sight to see the fields around the school full of athletes training and developing skills so they could compete at very high levels. Today the few sports that remain at MHS are suffering from a lack of participants and highly skilled athletes. The School Board recently suggested dropping baseball for just that reason. Some think it has more to do with declining enrollments but I feel it has more to do with a change in how families and students make decisions about participating in school and in the community.
A general observation, which probably shows my age, is that students today are “spread so thin that you can’t taste the flavor.” Parents want their kids to experience everything. I don’t disagree with that because a taste of something helps you make decisions about what you’d like to do. If you experience a wide variety of things and avoid striving to be really good at something then you become more of an observer of life. People that have skills and achieve at very high levels are successful. Competitive sports teaches you that.
I remember the day when the numbers of kids wanting to play competitive sports was so large that kids had to try-out for a team. Many didn’t make it so they would work on their skills during the off-season hoping to make it next year. They had goals and the enthusiasm to work hard to reach those goals.
Currently the MHS girls’ basketball team has seven players on the varsity and many are freshman. They are struggling to compete. These kids have great attitudes and they don’t appear to get down from not being able to compete. They play hard and give it their all. You can’t ask for more. They seem to be having fun. So if we measure success in terms of doing your best and enjoying what you’re doing then these kids are successful.
Why play any sport? The reason we keep score is to see who wins. To compete. To challenge yourself and an opponent. Losing day in and day out takes its toll on any competitive athlete, especially one that strives to excel. It takes a special quality of character to continue the struggle against the odds facing the MHS girls basketball team. Those seven – this magnificent seven, have those qualities. They are all in this together and they demonstrate a willingness to make the best of this journey. It is a struggle and they are facing it with strength of character and enthusiasm. Hopefully the thrill of competition drives them and they will welcome the challenge.
Sport teaches you how to work together and develop high level skills. It builds community and helps players strive to be successful. Some measure success in winning. I measure success in knowing that I made the effort to do my very best. To achieve what I am capable of doing!
Striving for excellence and digging in to be really good at a sport requires time and commitment. Going through the motions and experiencing little bits of life is not success. It’s neglecting your potential. It’s cheating yourself of the gift of knowing you can be great at something because you did more than experience it. You mastered it. You set goals. You worked hard to attain them.
I started this conversation wondering where the athletes have gone. Maybe they are dancers, actors, musicians, artists or something other than sport. You suffered through my ramblings about the past and my thoughts on sport and success. The community and culture around competitive sports in Montpelier is changing. Maybe you can offer your thoughts on why MHS sports are declining and what does the future bring for competitive sport in Montpelier. What is the message parents and students are sending us as Montpelier moves away from competitive sports? What replaces it?
It’s been quite awhile since I’ve posted to this blog. I have a long list of lazy excuses but will only share the most recent. January 30th I had foot fusion surgery. It’s a big deal and recovery has been slow. I’m sure it has a lot to do with my age, condition and people I hang out with. After several years of hobbling along with bad feet I decided to take my doctors advice and have surgery on my left foot. Basically they shaped several bones in my foot and then screwed them together to make one big bone. Here’s the latest X-RAY!
I spent several weeks in bed, foot above my heart, looking at the ceiling. After lots of drugs, infections, knee walkers, crutches, plaster casts, air cast, and now physical therapy, I’m starting to walk again. It’s been a long drawn out process and I’m glad I’m back doing things I love to do. Even if at a slower pace with a bit of a limp.
What does all this have to do with the title of my post? The reason I mention all this medical stuff is because it brought me to Choice Physical Therapy at First in Fitness in Berlin, Vermont. They’re helping me get going again. I was talking to them about some pictures I have been taking of the Montpelier High boys lacrosse team for parents.
We started talking about the difference between boys and girls lacrosse. That’s when I stuck my big foot in my mouth and started to regurgitate some one-liners about girls’ lacrosse that I’ve heard. I thought I was being funny by saying that girls’ lacrosse is very slow because of the “5 Second Rule”; definition: officials have to blow the whistle every 5 seconds whether something happens or not. Of course there is no such rule and I felt pretty stupid for saying it. I have watched many girls’ games and enjoyed the flow of the game. I have a lot of respect for any athlete that competes in any sport no matter the level of skill. Sometimes I say the dumbest things trying to be funny!
My sick humor got one of the physical therapists attention. She just happens to be the U32 girls varsity lacrosse coach. Her team is undefeated with a record of 15-0. She said I needed to come watch her team play sometime and that I’d learn what high-level lacrosse is all about. My red face was masked as exertion from the physical therapist working my foot. I feared my stupid comment had offended her and said I’d gladly go to the next couple of games.
I obviously know the difference between girls and boys lacrosse. Simply, boys lacrosse is a contact sport. They wear lots of protective equipment and muscle their goals. Girls lacrosse is a non-contact sport and they wear goggles to protect their eyes. Otherwise, no protective equipment except for the goal keeper. It’s a sport that emphasizes speed and finesse. Although it is a non-contact sport it is still very physical. Their goals are more strategy and team movement.
So I went to a couple of games as I promised and got to see a very highly skilled team move the ball at will anywhere they pleased and with much precision and grace. They were very fluid and accurate. They worked well together and obviously understand how a team is supposed to play a sport. Unfortunately, the competition was very weak and no match for the Raiders. I’m looking forward to the playoffs. I want to see how they perform when they are challenged by another highly skilled team. I have seen their skill. Now I want to see their heart. They have a new fan.
It is so good to be watching high school sports again after the long winter of being confined to focusing on healing my foot.
Vermont Mountaineer baseball starts soon. Now that’s real summer!
Saturday August 25, 2012 I spent the day on State Street in Montpelier, VT making pictures of the 3 on 3 competition hosted by the Montpelier Recreation Department and Montpelier Alive. There were 27 teams playing and ages ran from 8 to 40 plus in 5 categories. Jenny Bartlett, program director at Montpelier Rec. Dept., ran the event with help of many volunteers and staff.
This was the first year of the event and it went as smoothly as can be expected considering the location, number of people involved and heat of the day. It was humid and hot so banging away on pavement took it’s toll on the players especially the old timers. State Street is in big need of repair so players cutting to the basket often found footing a challenge. It was funny seeing players dribble and the ball bounce off in a direction they didn’t expect. It added another demension to the competition. It made passing more important and I’m all for that!
It was great to see so many familar faces going at it from middle school, high school and older. Parents were screaming directions at their kids and a few adults, of course, had to make calls from the sidelines about fouls and other violations even after Jenny explained that the players would be their own referees. I guess sideline referees will always be a sad part of the game. Overall the players were great about supporting each other. They played hard and limited trash talk to humor.
The highlight of the day for me was watching the older guys attacking the game with aging bodies and young minds. Their brains would say I can do this and their bodies would remind them that it was yesterday when they could make those moves. It didn’t stop them from giving it an all out effort. Maybe next year I’ll play if they have a category requiring a Medicare ID – 65+. Below is a picture of Tom Roberge breaking through three defenders as he attempts a shot.
Today I had the pleasure of briefly saying hello to Nikki Kimball and captured a few pictures as she attempts to break a speed record on the Long Trail in Vermont.
The current record for running the Long Trail is held by Jonathan Basham, who covered the 273-mile distance in four days, 12 hours and 46 minutes. The women’s record is more than seven days.
The Long Trail is the oldest long-distance trail in the United States. The Long Trail follows the main ridge of the Green Mountains from the Canadian border to the Massachusetts-Vermont line as it crosses Vermont’s highest peaks.
I caught up with Nikki as she reached Jonesville and crossed Route 2 on her way up Camel’s Hump. She took a brief rest for food and drink, discussed the route with her team and took time to answer some questions of the film crew doing a documentary about her Long Trail adventure.
Here’s a quote from the documentary website.
” ‘The Long Trail’ is a new documentary film starring Nikki Kimball, a world-renowned ultra runner, and her attempt to break a speed record on Long Trail, running 273 miles faster than any man or woman has ever done. Nikki Kimball’s story is an inspiring one that will touch upon many subjects from the role of women and girls in professional sports to the science behind the human body’s ability to run great distances. In addition to providing an inside look into contemporary running culture, this film will give viewers a perspective on human—and specifically female endurance—not seen before on public television, informing us all, regardless of our sex, of our true potential and inspiring us to reach it.”
Below is a picture of running pacer Dennis Ball rinsing a pair Nikki’s running shoes in the Winooski River before she arrives at a Route 2 crossing.
Nikki’s brother Bill joins her at the base of Camel’s Hump. I wish her the best and hope she achieves her goal. You can view some other pictures at Crowley Photos:
UPDATE: Nikki Kimball finsihed “running” the Long Trail in 5 days 7 hours 42 minutes and set a female record.
Times have changed. Today we get instant news from Tweets, Facebook messages, blogs and online news. Times Argus Sports Editor, Anna Grearson, is amazing at keeping us in the action by sending online updates of current games around the area. She also takes notes of the game she’s watching for an article she’ll publish later that night.
Some of us still enjoy holding the daily newspaper in our hands, turning the pages and reading the local news. I save articles that really grab me and reread them many times. I want to share one such piece written back in 1988 by Times Argus Sports writer Stephanie Carter.
Stephanie graduated from Twinfield High and attended Norwich University, Duke University and North Carolina State. She was a reporter for the Times Argus fresh out of college. She was a newswoman for Associated Press, Burlington Free Press, press secretary for Governor Dean, acting commissioner for Vermont Dept. of Tourism and currently communication director at UNC.
In the late 80′s she wrote a weekly column for the Times Argus titled “Beyond the Score.” No, I didn’t steal the title. She gave me permission to use it. I want to continue her emphasis on sport outside the game highlighting player accomplishments and fan reactions.
The Times Argus Sports section back in the 80′s was much larger than today. It had 4 pages of local sports news. There were five sports writers; Tom Brown, Dave Moody, Greg Titus, Pete Hartt and Stephanie Carter. Moody, Titus and Hartt were also photographers. I always looked forward to reading the weekly columns; Wednesdays – Touching Base by Pete Hartt, Thursdays – Beyond the Score by Stephanie Carter and Fridays – An Idle Mind by Greg Titus. Each had a special focus and celebrated everything from racing, pro ball to high school sports. Today we have Jim Higgins – Local Angle on occasion and Anna Grearson – On Deck.
It’s playoff time and the #11 Montpelier High girls had a big win over #6 U32 Wednesday night. They are traveling to #3 Fair Haven on Saturday to compete in a quarterfinal game.
Good Luck Lady Solons and here’s a message for you before the game. Read on!
A reprint from 1988 of Stephanie’s column in Beyond the Score. It’s as meaningful today as it was back then!
Thursday February 25, 1988 Barre-Montpelier Times Argus
“Savoring The Anticipation – And Memory – Of A Playoff Game” by Stephanie Carter
The Olympic Games were worlds away from Vermont last Saturday, but the pre game anticipation, tension and nervous stomachs of important competition were present in eight gymnasiums throughout the state as 16 girls’ basketball teams were gearing up for quarterfinal action.
Outside was a springlike thaw with cool temperatures and plenty of sunshine. But inside, amidst banners and corsages and fans clad in school colors, a brew of nerves simmered.
Inside the Locker Room
Twenty-five minutes before game time and ankles are being taped, warm-up jackets being put on and taken off. It’s players trying to act like it’s just another game after the coach just threw up in the bathroom.It’s drilling each other on which offense is “two” and which defense is “C”. It’s remembering where you go on the press.For seniors on the higher seeded teams, it’s realizing that this is the last time they’ll play on their home court. It’s the worry that this may be the last game of their career, period.
In the Stands
Nervous parents lean forward snapping gum and wringing hands. They’ve traveled to their kids’ games since sixth grade, trying to be supportive, while not over-emphasizing the importance of sports. It’s wanting their kids to do well, but wanting them to know they’re still O.K. if they don’t win, knowing that the next 24 hours will be a whole lot brighter if they do win. It’s wondering what their kids are going through. Younger brother and sisters have come along to cheer, not certain what “quarterfinal” means, but glad to be out of the house on a Saturday afternoon. Classmates arrive in a variety of dress and mood Many wear school colors and some carry signs. Others sit back cooly for the ride. They all hope that the team wins; it’s nice to have something concrete to cheer about at school.
Back Inside the Locker Room
Fifteen minutes before game time, and for most players, it’s a struggle between knowing that basketball is not the end-all and be-all of life, yet knowing that for the next hour-and-a-half, it will be. It’s wanting to give 100 percent and worrying that you’ll have a 65 percent game that just won’t cut it. It’s daydreaming about making a jumper at the buzzer to win the game by one; it’s the nightmare that you blew it at the foul line and lost the game. It’s intense sweat in a clean, ironed uniform, looking for tape to cover barrettes. It’s looking around at teammates who have been a major part of your life for four years, knowing that they won’t be next year. It’s realizing that you got only three hours of sleep last night, but you’re far from tired.
Out on the Floor
Twelve minutes to game time and one player emerges from the locker room to find a pack of gum, and then retreats. Another struts out to pick up the usual warm-up ball. The door closes again. Then the team comes out for real to receive the biggest pre-game applause they’ve ever heard. As they splinter into two lanes for layups, it’s wondering if this is the final warm up or does it go on from here? It’s trying to block out the microphones and wires of radio, ignoring cameras, while getting a charge that they’re there. It’s players stretching and giving adrenalin-filled “high fives.” The visiting team has traveled with it’s familiar tunes and plays them now for motivation and the comfort of continuity. They have never seen this particular gym before. For the home team, it’s wanting to go out in style, winning the final game on the same floor that has been the site of running laps and sit ups and scrimmages and new plays and pulled muscles for years. It’s sneaking glances at the other team, trying to pick out the star, convincing yourself that the six footer isn’t that tall.
The Final Huddle
Hands, freezing and shaky, join before the opening buzzer. Mouths drop open to reassure each other, but no one can understand what anybody’s saying (it’s just too noisy) until the final “Let’s Go.” Then, everybody knows what to do.
Vermont high school basketball tournaments are a chance for players to be stars. For most of those who participate, organized basketball will never again be a part of their lives, and they will never be in such good physical condition. But for 16 teams, a Saturday quarterfinal is a reward for hard work and learning about teamwork. It’s a chance to be in the spotlight.
For all of its pressure and mixed messages, a basketball quarterfinal is something that won’t ever be forgotten. It is one of those frozen moments, and no matter how far from the high school gym your life takes you, that game won’t ever be lost.
Vermont Girls Ice Hockey Coaches Association announced the 2011-2012 Lake Division All Star Selections today, February 27. Player of the Year went to outstanding player Abby Marmer of Burr & Burton Academy and Coach of the Year goes to Mike Vasseur of Harwood Union. But it was the selection of 1st Team Goalie that got my attention. Mary Cain gets that honor and sets another first for the season. She is the first goalie to get the award without recording a win during the season. It just demonstrates the respect coaches around the state have for her game and how incredible she is in the net. Earlier in the season she had 71 saves in one game – a first for any goalie in Vermont. She had 747 saves this season – another first. Her save percentage is around 0.878.
Cain was also named to the Annual Essex Rotary All-Star Hockey Classic which will be played on March 17th in Essex. It was also announced that she is an Academic All Star with a GPA above 3.5. Congratulations Mary! You’ve had an amazing career as a high school goalie and we’ll look forward to watching you play in the All-Star Game in Essex in March.
Others named to the Lake Division 1st Team are Kristen Dukette and Erin Easton (Northfield), Emma Cummings (Harwood), Lucy Stillman (Rice), and Brooke Sabol (Burr & Burton).
I’d like to take a minute to tip my hat to retiring Head Coach Chris Turley of Montpelier. Coach Turley had his last coaching moment walking off the ice at the Civic Center in Montpelier after shaking hands with U32 players during the final game of the season. He headed into the locker room to talk with his team. Chris and his staff of volunteers (Peter Farrell, Paul Rumley, Sam FitzPatrick, Brian Cain) started the Montpelier High girls hockey program ten years ago as a club program and it evolved into a varsity sport. He was all about players being successful by developing character while developing hockey skills. He will be missed. Chris is done as is the MHS girls hockey program.
There is a possibility that Montpelier players will still be able to play hockey next year. A merge is being discussed with area schools and if the decision-making adults can cross mascot lines the kids will benefit and Montpelier girls will be on the ice next year.
What a Game!
Sport is about the contest. It’s about the atmosphere in the arena and the drive of the players. It’s about the desire to win. All that filled the Civic Center in Montpelier Saturday night when two winless teams faced each other and a dramatic hockey game broke out.
Montpelier High and Woodstock High girls hockey teams met and battled for three periods of action-filled play. It was Senior Night and the players from both teams were recognized during the pre-game ceremony. Flowers, pictures and reflection of four years of competition were center stage. Coaches, parents and players made the most of it. After the ceremony (L/R) Junior Tess Adams, Freshman Chole Golonka, and Sophomore Julie Connor completed the festivities by singing a beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner to start the game. Check it out below.
The game was physical and penalty-ridden. Montpelier jumped out to a lead and Woodstock responded. It went back and forth until the final minutes of the game when Woodstock broke a 3-3 tie and topped it off with an open net goal as time expired giving them the win, 5-3.
That’s what happened but this is the story. Montpelier scored almost as many goals tonight as they did all season. Tess Adams “The “Tasmanian Devil”, and Rachel Ebersole “The Rock”, scored early to put Montpelier in the lead. Woodstock tied the game. Then Freshman Chloe Golonka (who not only took up hockey for the first time this year but also had to learn to skate at the beginning of the year) made a beautiful unassisted score off a rebound to put the Solons ahead in the third period, 3-2.
Woodstock’s next 3 goals were all part of the drama. Two teams sacrificing life and limb got after the puck and settled it at the end of three periods of hockey. I enjoyed every minute. Two teams playing their hearts out near the end of the season.
It was disappointing to watch the Solons fade toward the end but they have to be proud of their effort and hopefully they know what joy they bring to the ice for an old dog like me. You would never know the records of these two teams watching the style of play and the energy of the coaches, fans, and players during the game. It doesn’t get much better!
You can check out pictures of the game at Crowley Photos.
Three games remain next week: North Country, Rice and U32. I hope to watch all three!
A huge shout out to a couple of Montpelier High girls on the hockey team; Mary Cain and Rachel Ebersole.
First, congratulations to Mary Cain for her outstanding play at the Kreitzberg Arena against Northfield where she endured 77 shots on goal in one game! She stopped 71 of them. She made a historic save in the first period and the puck was snagged by the coaches. It was her 500th save of the season! That’s right, 500th save this season. How long did it take Tim Thomas to get 500 saves while playing in Vermont? Mary’s save percentage is around .910 which is top shelf in any arena.
Second, Rachel Ebersole made one of the sweetest unassisted goals of the season. She weaved through defenders and covered 3 zones of the ice. She approached the net from the left side with a defender on her right shoulder. She used her speed and power to ward off the defender and cut in front of the net to score in the lower right corner – Poetry on Ice!
You can view images of the girls hockey season at CrowleyPhotos.
Their next game is Saturday against Mt Mansfield @ 7PM at the Civic Center in Montpelier.
There’s been a lot of talk about concussions lately and there’s a ton of information to get confused about. Every athlete takes a shot in the head at some point and it’s important to know what’s going on and how to deal with it before getting back to competing.
For example, could heading the ball in soccer lead to degenerative brain disease, like that seen in athletes of other contact sports; boxing – MMA? The January issue of Neurosurgery discusses this topic and others.
So take the time to get some baseline information and become aware of what’s happening to you when you get hit in the head and how to handle it so you avoid long term damage.
SportsConcussions.org explains: “a concussion is a brain injury that can occur in any sport. The good news is most of them heal within a short period of time, like any other sports-related injury. But what makes concussions unique is that they are invisible and it’s hard to know exactly when an injured brain has completely healed. So take all the time you need, and be patient. It’s not worth the risk.”
These sites are full of great information but If you’re looking for a brief and very informative explanation about concussions just watch and listen to Dr. Mike’s Visual Lecture below. It’s one of my favorite sites!