Springer athletes get a talkin’ to
They’ve been retired for 17 years now, but they still have important things to say and great ways of saying them.That’s why long-time Glenwood coaches Harlan Spencer and Bob Chavez returned to their old stomping grounds on Thursday to pass on their wisdom to young athletes at the Springers Track Camp.While the duo is most famous for making Glenwood a basketball town by combining for 648 victories before retiring in 1989, they also coached a variety of sports before focusing on basketball. They also played multiple sports in high school before each went onto play sports in college. With the same enthusiasm that earned him three state titles, Chavez preached the importance of playing more than one sport to over 20 kids at the camp. “I don’t think anybody should be tied down to sport at your age. You can specialize in one when you get older,” Chavez said to the campers, most of whom were not yet in high school. “I’d say 85 percent of my best players played multiple sports.”
Spencer, who started Glenwood’s girls basketball program in 1975, agreed with Chavez, saying that most of his athletes played two or even three sports. Springers participants Corey Gera, who is 12, and Jasmine Vanthoff, who is 13, said they enjoyed listening to Spencer and Chavez. While they weren’t sure which sports they were going to play in high school, they knew they would be participating in some.”I know that I want to play volleyball,” said Vanthoff, who currently plays soccer and skis.Springers: see page A22
The pair also encouraged the young athletes to take the things they learn in sports, like teamwork, and apply them to life. Before they each took over as head basketball coaches, Spencer coached the junior high teams that fed into Chavez’s high school squads. When they took over GSHS’ basketball teams, instead of fighting over gym space like most girls and boys basketball coaches did at the time, they worked together – even sharing offensive schemes at times. “That’s one reason we did as good as we did here because we worked so well together,” Spencer said.Chavez also advised the Springers to always have fun, always work hard and play to the best of their ability and to be enthusiastic about everything they do. Whether it is playing a game, doing their chores or doing their school work, Chavez said he never wanted to hear young kids say they are tired.”You can’t be tired because you are 12,” Chavez said. “Harlan and I are ancient. We came over on the Mayflower and we aren’t tired.”After speaking to the kids, Spencer and Chavez remembered how different sports were when they coached. Chavez and Spencer remembered times when people would line up right after school to get into basketball games – how the gym, that is now named the Spencer-Chavez Gymnasium, would be so packed people were forced to watch games on a television set up in the auditorium.
Now, the gym is hardly full, and the same can be said of the bleachers for football games. One major reason Spencer and Chavez believe things changed was the sharp rise in club sports. Year-round club sports focus athletes’ attention and develop their skills toward one sport and one sport that, for most of the year, is not through the school.”This whole thing of dividing kids and their talents – it’s not good for them and we aren’t big enough for that,” said Spencer. “They don’t have the participants that we used to have because of that. It is a newer problem now than it was when we were doing it. We didn’t lack for participants. I remember 95 kids coming out for my junior high football team one year. Now, they don’t have 75 kids coming out for high school.”Chavez agreed.”Clubs is killing them. It’s not good for the kids, not for the little kids,” Chavez said.After influencing hundreds of athletes with their coaching, Chavez and Spencer are hoping that on Wednesday they may have motivated a few more.”If one person out of that whole bunch listened to us, it’s going to help them,” Chavez said. “If they let it go in one ear and out the other then they’ll be back on the bench sitting down.”
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