Way before the current campaign designed to highlight the benefits of participation in high school athletics and activities there was this team back in 1980 from Griswold, IA. As I look at this group now I see a lot of guys who are now in their 50's and are working in a variety of professions. We've scattered across the state and country but what we went through for a couple of seasons together still binds us together today and when see each other around the streets of Griswold at reunions or holidays I think there is still an extra smile and heartbeat when we greet each other. I know there is for me.
This was our Griswold Tiger boys basketball team from 1979-80. As you can tell we were trendsetters. You'll notice the Marquette style uniforms that were made popular by the 1977 National Champion Marquette Warriors. Yes, we had matching away uniforms as well. The high socks, low cut Adidas Superstar shoes were in as well, but fashion is not why this group was so special.
The season before one of our seniors, Jon, who was one of the best all around athletes to go through Griswold High School was diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 1979 during the baseball season and died just a few months later. It was a tough time. Then, around that same time another young member of our team, Paul, was diagnosed with cancer. You'll notice him standing by our head coach in the back right wearing #20.
The team you see in this picture played angry. We were tough nosed, tough minded, and played with a real purpose. One game in particular stands out to this day. We were playing an away game and I honestly don't remember if Paul was playing or was just sitting on the end of our bench. We were winning the game comfortably and the starters were out of the game as our teammates were playing toward the end of the game. All of a sudden, Roy (#52), no doubt our muscle guy, got up and walked down toward our opponents student section and we all followed. Roy had heard a few of the opponents students making comments directed toward Paul so Roy addressed it. We were there with him. There was no physical confrontation but I have no doubt the message was clear what could happen and we returned to our bench.
Not every team has to go through the loss of teammates to make their athletic experience memorable, and thank goodness they don't have to, but we did and I know we probably got through it a little better because we went through it together. The reason why I'm still in this profession is because of the experiences I had with these guys and our coaches.
To those still working in the education field in some capacity or another don't miss the opportunities to teach, through the good times and the tough times that happen throughout the different seasons and years. That's our call and opportunity to lead. To those who work in other professions outside of the world of education I encourage you to look back on your athletic and activity experiences and think about how they helped to shape and mold who you are today. I hope you are able to point to some lessons learned that still impact you today and use them daily. After all, no matter what we do we have an opportunity to lead and impact others.
You may wonder how the team did. We finished 19-5, were Western Iowa Conference Champions, and I believe to this day would have gone to the state tournament had our sixth man, #34, not suffered a broken foot late in the season in the conference championship game. However, while the wins and championships were fun that's not what I remember. I remember a group of guys who played together and played with a purpose bigger than themselves. Success is not about the wins, it truly is the journey that makes the lasting impact. That's what I hope we can still help young people experience in 2017 and beyond because the impact of my experiences in the 1979-80 are still in my mind are definitely #myreasonwhy.