Column: Lessons learned over a long season

Published 9:06 pm Thursday, November 20, 2003

By Staff
I certainly hope the Dowagiac varsity basketball team, along with the players on the junior varsity and freshman squads, learned some valuable lessons this season.
Dowagiac's cage teams had a roller-coaster year that is for sure.
But the highs and lows for each squad can be equalled out by the knowledge that each and every player on the three squads helped push the program forward.
Dowagiac's varsity squad had won just once in the previous season and lost better than 20 games in a row before stopping the streak against Portage Northern.
The Chieftains went on to win four more games after that, including a district contest for the first time in nearly a decade.
The Dowagiac junior varsity squad hadn't won a game in more than two years before earning a couple of wins this past season.
No matter what people think about the program I can honestly say it took some steps in the right direction under the leadership of first-year coach Joe Spitale.
Sure there is a long way to go and there is much work to be done before the Chieftains can challenge the likes of Niles, but as they say, a long journey begins with the first step.
Dowagiac took that step by winning four regular season games and the opening game of district tournament.
The Chieftains continued with another step Wednesday night despite a loss to Lakeshore.
Dowagiac now needs to begin thinking about the future.
The Chieftains will lose some quality players to graduation this year, but there are others waiting to step in and take their spots.
I seen some light at the end of this tunnel and no it is not a train.
There is talent coming and there is talent already here.
Now it is Spitale's job to mold that talent into a cohesive unit. It's his job to get his players into the right spots so that they can be successful on the court.
How does he do that?
Well for starters, he has to develop an off-season program that the kids will buy into. He has to give them opportunities to improve themselves through hard work.
That may mean changing the mind set of not only the players, but parents and an entire community.
Dowagiac has long been known for its softball because of the success it has found under former coach Denny Dock and the continued success of Randy Brooks.
I know that there is plenty of time for these kids to play both sports.
But they are going to have to dedicate themselves to playing basketball as well as they are currently playing softball.
If Spitale can make that happen, then there is a chance that Dowagiac will achieve success on the basketball court too.