Saturday, January 20, 2007


How many can remember the old television show “Family Feud?” It’s branded into our psyche that famous phrase “survey says…!” Well, as much as “survey says” is hidden somewhere inside our heads, so is the introduction “research says…” I for one am, (a) tired of hearing it, and (b) not at all convinced that just because ‘research says,’ that something is necessarily true. I hear it constantly in the field of education – primarily public education that is. I am old school education, and proud of it. That also makes me somewhat a dinosaur. I believe education is impossible without discipline, good old fashion unconditional discipline. Yes, questioning authority will come, but not until shall we say late high school or early college years. I think the Jesuits say it best: “That’s the way we’ve been doing it for almost 400 years, that’s the way that works. If you don’t like it, go to another school.”

Keeping in mind that this is a sports column I would like to address what “research says” about youth sports. Every youth sports clinic I’ve attended, and I’ve attended my fair share, says “research says keep it fun!” I agree, to an extent. In soccer practice we have relay races. Sometimes we dribble the soccer ball, sometimes we carry it, sometimes we just run – we keep it fun. In basketball practice we do the same thing. In baseball we have relays where we see which team can collectively throw the ball the furthest. Once in baseball practice I had the boys run to the foul pole and back – a distance of some 200 yards or so. One of the parents, one of these “new school” parents questioned my motive. “That’s not fun, just running for the sake of running,” he said to me, “what purpose does that achieve?” I instantly responded, “it teaches the boys to do exactly what I say, when I say it.” It may sound harsh, maybe even a little rude, but it works.

I wish I had the time to do my own research – that is, to conduct a scientific experiment to support the hypothesis that “winning is fun – a whole lot more fun than losing.” I can hear the groans already, “ah, you’re one of those coaches that believes ‘winning is everything.’” Nope, not even close. What I teach, and what I ask everyone who coaches with me to teach, are the basics – the fundamentals. Pay very close attention to the small details please. Almost always, if you pay attention to the small details, the large details have a way of working themselves out. This past summer in baseball practice, we taught our outfielders to charge the ball, every single time, and to come up throwing. Repetition, repetition, repetition. If we hit one ball to the outfielders, I bet we hit two hundred. Remember now, we are talking about 8 year-olds here. Was it fun? Hardly – but it was effective. During the course of the season we had outfielders throw out two runners at home plate – a feat unheard of at the atom I level.

I must give credit where credit is due, and the credit for having such a sound defensive outfield goes to Joe Murray. Our philosophy in baseball was to teach each youngster no more than three positions; left field, center field and right field are, and have, very different responsibilities. Joe took pride in his outfielders – a position many atom I teams place the youngsters who prefer to chase bees than fly balls. Joe worked with them, patiently, yet firmly, convincing each young man that his position was the most important on the team. On the two occasions that our outfielders threw runners out at the plate, most everyone in the park couldn’t have been more surprised if a two-headed monster flew over the park – not Joe. He knew that his work, his dedication, his repetition of rolling, then throwing, and finally hitting ground balls to his outfielders would pay off. No, Joe wasn’t surprised, rather he expected it. He had trained his boys how to perform under pressure and they did! What could be more fun than running off the field knowing that scores of parents were applauding a play that only you and your coach knew you could make?

Joe will be branching off on his own next season, fielding a new team of his own. I want to take this opportunity to first of all thank Joe for all he has done for the Titans in the past three years, and to wish him all the luck in the world in the upcoming season. I hope he remembers what I always told the boys, because the same applies to coaches: “Once a Titan, always a Titan.”

Another youth coach warrants sentence or two. After seven years of coaching girls’ youth soccer, Mark Francis is hanging up his whistle. Mark has been coaching a group of young ladies from Academy of the Sacred Heart since they were 4 years old. They are now 11 and he is ready to turn the reigns over to someone else. This past Saturday, even an ice storm couldn’t prevent the majority of his players from presenting Mark with a very special gift – a gift that brought him to tears (again). I think it was best summed up by one of his players who said, “You’re the best soccer coach I’ve ever had. Probably because you’re the only soccer coach I’ve ever had.” It’s no coincidence that same young lady hung up her soccer cleats for good at the end of the season. That young lady is my daughter. Thank you Mark for everything you’ve done for Maggie, and all the girls. I know I probably disagreed with you more than agreed – but I know my daughter is a better person for playing soccer under you for the past 7 years.

Mike McMurran can be reached at: 314.280.9189

First Capitol News Photo By Bob Barton

High School Basketball
Pirates Dominate Early
Harrellson’s Defense Give Pirates Easy Win over Fort Zumwalt West

By Louis J. Launer

The St. Charles Pirates produced a tight defense early against the Fort Zumwalt Jaguars on Tuesday night as the lights returned to St. Charles High School. The Pirates kept the Jaguars from scoring their first basket until 4:02 left in the first quarter. The entire Jaguar team could get past Pirate big man Josh Harrellson, who stood under the basket through most of the first quarter rejecting any Jaguar shot.

Harrellson started the scoring for the Pirates early when he scored an easy lay-up. Harrellson assisted later by throwing across court to teammate Rudy Harper for a “peanut butter and jam” slam-dunk. The Pirates made it look easy as they took a 13-2 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The Pirates’ Rudy Harper took advantage of several Jaguar mistakes and scored seven points in the second quarter, which included one field goal. Josh Harrellson also scored a 3-pointer with 3:28 left and the Pirates had a commanding 27-6 lead at the half.

In the third quarter, Zumwalt West came out focused. The Pirates appeared lost. The Jaguars scored five in the first two minutes, taking advantage of 3 turnovers that the Pirates easily gave up.

Sean Zimpfer finally scored the first second-half points for the Pirates with 3:40 left in the third quarter. Harrellson couldn’t buy a basket in the quarter. Zimpfer also had two 3-point baskets as the Pirates regained their momentum in the final minute of the third quarter. It was still Zumwalt West’s quarter as they had a 16-13 quarter. But the Pirates still led overall, 40-22 going into the 4th.

Rudy Harper scored 4 points on two fast breaks early in the final quarter. Zumwalt West could not catch up from the deficit that appeared before them in the first half and lost to the St. Charles Pirates, 56-39. The Pirates continue to be in the drivers seat, but still are behind to cross-town rival St. Charles West, who continue to lead in the district standings.

DUCHESNE STILL TOUGH. The Duchesne Pioneers, who are also in the same district as St. Charles and St. Charles West to gain a state playoff berth, traveled to Hannibal last week to take on the Pirates up north. The Pioneers led the first half by having a 17-16 lead at the end of the first quarter and a 31-29 lead at halftime. But Hannibal came back with 18 points in the third quarter and 18 points in the fourth quarter to defeat the Duchesne Pioneers, 65-60.

Zach Plackemeier had 16 points for the Pioneers, while teammate Danny Friedel had 17, which included 6 field goals. Nick Pryor had 10 points for the Pioneers and Brandon Durk had 8. Plackemeier was 5 for 6 in free-throws, while Friedel was 2 for 2 in the same category.