Column: Pride, history and tradition

BOB DeSTEFANO PHOTO The Shelter Island School varsity basketball team during the National Anthem before the tip off the game against Greenport January 13. From left, Nicholas Young, Walter Richards, Kal Lewis, Evan Thilberg, Luke Gilpin, Erik Thilberg, Daniel Martin, Assistant Coaches Jim Colligan and Ian Kanarvogel and Coach Jay Card Jr.

BOB DeSTEFANO PHOTO
The Shelter Island School varsity basketball team during the National Anthem before the tip off the game against Greenport January 13. From left, Nicholas Young, Walter Richards, Kal Lewis, Evan Thilberg, Luke Gilpin, Erik Thilberg, Daniel Martin, Assistant Coaches Jim Colligan and Ian Kanarvogel and Coach Jay Card Jr.

January on Shelter Island.

My morning starts with walking the dog for a half hour followed by coffee with my friends for the next hour. That sets up the most productive time of the day — the only time I get things done. I keep busy, and thanks to Shelter Island School, my entertainment is watching the basketball games.

This past week I attended two home and two away games. If winning and losing is the final judge of why I am there, then we have not been successful. If you look in the stands and see the faces of the real supporters, you’ll understand why we’re watching. Losing is not a healthy thing for young people, but these young people are far from losers.

Shelter Island’s varsity squad consists of seven athletes, playing against larger schools that have a full bench. We do that with players who are the age of junior varsity athletes. As I said, these young men are far from losers. They are young and in a transition year, but if winning is what is important to you, hang around and watch them roll the next couple of years.

I am so proud of our never-say-die coaches. I’ve watched them call a time out to try a new play in the last minute of a game when they were losing by 30 points. The coaches feel that a lot of lessons can still be taught, no matter what the score. To our coaches, it’s obviously not about the money they receive, it’s all about the kids.

If you’re like me and following the games from year to year, you can’t help but be amazed at the improvement in every player over just one season. These young folks not only get bigger and stronger, but their skills improve dramatically. They also have the same “never surrender” attitude learned from their coaches.

The last two away games were against the Bridgehampton Killer Bees and the Greenport Porters. These are two of the best teams in the league this year. Of the two, I give the edge to Greenport. They not only have a great starting five, but they have a terrific team in their second five.

One thing that impressed me were the gymnasiums. I love to go into Bridgehampton’s gym. The Killer Bees have always been one of the best teams out east, yet they have the smallest of all the gyms.

When I walk into their home, I can’t help but get a feeling of pride. This small gym has done everything well, including the many championship banners neatly displayed on the walls. It is set up to show a winning tradition. I know If I were going to school there, this gym would make me want to be a part of it.

After playing Bridgehampton, the Islanders went to the North Fork and played Greenport. I couldn’t stop thinking of the difference in the two gyms. You could easily fit three of Bridgehampton’s gyms in Greenport. I felt I was in an airplane hangar and sitting nowhere near the actual game. Although I know that Greenport is proud of their gym, I did not get the same feeling as I did with the Killer Bees.

Folks in Bridgehampton are all very excited about building a new gym to replace the current one. My message to Bridgehampton: Please don’t lose the history and that wonderful feeling of pride your gymnasium holds. Remember, that room fills your students with self-respect.

Interestingly, we on Shelter Island built our new gym about the same year that Title IX was approved. At that time, we never realized that with both boys and girls playing, we would have so many sports looking for that space. I know we didn’t think about it because I served 15 years on the school board right after the new building was constructed.

We didn’t save the old gymnasium, and if you speak to our current coaches, I’m sure they’ll tell you we made a mistake. With all that is happening today, our present building could sure use that extra relief.

If you’re looking for something to do next Wednesday, we have a home game against Pierson at 4 p.m. for the JV and 5:45 p.m. for varsity. See you there.

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