"Hope is a thing with feathers that perches on the soul."
- Emily Dickinson
I enjoy the company of kids, animals and old people. They fascinate me.
Much like when I was a boy and I could stare at a spider web for hours, wondering how a simple creature could create such an intricate and splendid design.
My attention could never be held for that long when it was time to do chores at home, or when in school, and the teacher was giving an endless lesson that made the hands of the clock on the wall move so slowly that they seemed muddled in molasses. That is, unless the subject was reading, and the discussion had to do with a good book.
My favorite books have always been the ones that tell of the sporting life and those who made their name and fortune by mastering a game that many consider only for the very young.
In truth, they are for the very young at heart.
At the close of each basketball season, I think back on a book I read in the late 1990s. Its title was, "In These Girls, Hope is a Muscle."
The book's author, Madeleine Blais, spent an entire season with a high school girls basketball team from Amherst, Mass. The rocky road to learning a game, growing up, and growing together as a team, complete with its wide range of emotions, was chronicled by Blais in a novel that anyone who has ever coached sports - male or female - can appreciate.
Having coached girls basketball for many years, including the past three as an assistant at Coal Ridge High School, reading the story of the Amherst Lady Hurricanes was something that I had lived, and enjoyed, despite the long hours, sleepless nights and minimal pay.
The toughest part of coaching, for me, had nothing to do with the agonizing, last-second losses that stay with you forever and a day, but the season's end and saying goodbye to the seniors who had given so much of themselves to the team and the school.
Though I was just a volunteer coach, and only in attendance about half of the time at practice and games, this year was no different from many others as the two elder statesmen players of the Coal Ridge girls, Cassidy Blackard and Kaylee Peterson, completed their eligibility and will move down the road to bigger and better things in the years to come.
They were a pleasure to get to know, as were all of the kids on the team.
I'll think of them often, and wonder what they are up to, as I do with every youngster I have been lucky enough to be associated with as a teacher and coach.
I know hope will always be on their side, and that's a pretty good thing.
Though I sit on the opposing bench, I always enjoy going to Carbondale to face those Rams of Roaring Fork.
The reason is simple: I get to see so many good people that I have known most of my life.
Larry Williams, Kirk Cheney, Marty Nieslanik, Larry Stangeland and Larry Black are just a few of the folks I always like to bump into.
I used to play town league basketball back in my younger years with Cheney and Nieslanik, and we had a bunch of fun together. Williams and I had the friendliest rivalry anyone could hope for back when he coached the ladies of Roaring Fork and I was in charge of the downvalley Glenwood Springs Demons.
Salt of the earth people. I just wish they wouldn't beat us all the time.
Finally, there should be a 30 second shot clock in high school basketball. Plain and simple.
When the inventor of basketball, James Naismith, put up that peach basket in 1891 to give his physical education students an indoor alternative to the harsh Springfield, Mass., winters, I believe he did it because he thought the game would be fun.
Watching athletic, talented young people play keep away from the other team and stall away a game is not fun. Plain and simple.
Mike Vidakovich is a freelance writer for the Post Independent. His column will run on the first Monday of each month.