The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio


August 13, 2013

A Don McCormack column: Take the stage... while you can

The 2013-14 high school sports season has just tipped off, with golf starting last week and the other fall sports following suit soon.

And as is the case without exception, some whispers are making the rounds about this player or that player not playing this sport or that sport.

The reasons given are an all-too-familiar refrain:

n “I don’t like the coach.”

n “I’m going to concentrate on (insert sport here).”

Well, to be blunt, in regards to both supposed reasons — bullfeathers.

Truth is, kids, if you decide to sacrifice not playing a sport because you blame the coach for some slight, perceived or accurate, you are the one making the mistake.

And if you truly believe not playing a sport to concentrate on one will get your college education paid for, you’re making another.

Both worn out “reasons” aren’t that.

They’re excuses.

And they’re still mistakes.

Big ones.

I can tell you from personal experience, you may not realize it now or in a few months, but you will later.

And you will never forget it.

And you will regret it.

I played basketball at Jefferson and all through our years on the hardwood (or the godawful tile in the Multi-Purpose Room during our junior-high seasons at the old high school building), my class enjoyed a lot of success.

While I was just a kid with average abilities, I at least played a role in helping my buddies get their points and our team get its share of wins.

In my four years of high school, Jefferson’s boys teams won a total of 53 games, not that yours truly had much to do with it. But those 53 wins represent 10 more than the Falcons have won in any four-season period since.

My freshman year, we won a conference championship, the first in 15 seasons at the school.

My sophomore year, Jefferson won its first boys basketball sectional championship in 32 years.

My junior year, we won another conference championship.

My senior year?

Well, we finished second in the league to a fine Pymatuning Valley team that featured the likes of Maurice McDonald, Jack Thompson, Marlin Moschell, Dan Lautanen, Eric Van Court and Brian Squibbs, losing on our home floor when our last-second shot rimmed out and in the rematch at PV a month later in a dogfight. That contest had Lakers PA announcer Beth Helfer pleading with the overflow crowd to squeeze closer to accommodate the line of people outside the gymnasium looking for a spot to sit... or stand.

We lost in the Class AA sectional to the tournament’s second seed, heavily favored Newton Falls, by two points, in a game that featured our star, Rick Berrier, scoring 15 points... in the first quarter, including a dunk on a steal and pass by yours truly.

That season, we lost seven games by six points or less, games I’ve never forgotten.

(On a related note, is it just me, or do we remember the heartbreaking losses more than the thrilling victories?)

We ground our way through that season, defeating the likes of mighty Southington — a regional-qualifying Class A powerhouse program at the time which featured players such as 6-foot-4 point guard Dave Pearson and Fred Paulenich — twice, a very talented Harvey squad that sported studs like Herb Cunningham and Ray Singleton and a much bigger Chardon team.

But we lost more down-to-the-wire games than I really want to document here. All the while, a guy who had started alongside me in the backcourt since the seventh grade, watched.

From the stands.

He didn’t come out for the team in our senior year, despite pretty much all of us begging and pleading with him.

He had an issue with our coach and couldn’t find a way to let it go.

So he didn’t play.

But he showed up at every game and the expression on his face said it all.

It broke his heart and, as the rest of us saw him sitting in the bleachers, it broke ours, too.

We weren’t whole.

We weren’t what we could have been... should have been.

And all these years later, that hasn’t changed. We can’t go back, though pretty much everyone I know would love that opportunity for just one or two “do overs” in regards to decisions we made years, even decades, previous.

LeBron James has all the money in the world. Life is his oyster.

But even he has one regret, at least one he’s admitted to us mortals.

He regrets he didn’t play his senior season of football at St. Vincent-St. Mary.

“I’ve give anything I have to go back and change that decision I made,” he said. “It’s the one great regret I have in my life.”

Geneva’s Brian Anderson, who pitched in the majors for the Angels, the Indians, the Diamondbacks and the Royals, played three sports during his days as an Eagle.

Jefferson’s Matt Hatchette, who played in the NFL as a wide receiver for the Vikings and the Jets and will enter the Ashtabula County Football Hall of Fame on Dec. 9, played football and basketball during his days as a Falcon.

And both have told me how glad they are now they made those decisions then.

For all of James’ hundreds of millions of dollars, he can’t buy back the opportunity he passed up.

So kids, trust me on this, please. Get out there and do it while you can.

Because before you know it, these opportunities go by the wayside, never to come along again.

Coaches will come and go. Some are better and easier to play for than others, true.

Think about the name on the front of your uniform.

As the saying goes, you’ll remember many of the times during your four years in high school for the next 40 years.

And please, don’t let your feelings toward one or two particular coaches sway you enough to miss out on memories, times shared with your friends at not only practices and games, but in things such as bus rides, dinners, sleepovers and the many countless activities any collective forms.

Those are times you can never get back.

And memories you will never have.

But you will have one thing — regret.

McCormack is the sports editor of the Star Beacon. Reach him at

Text Only
  • BB1 Walk on the wild side

    Going into the bottom of the third inning Tuesday, things were looking pretty good for the Madison Blue Streaks at Edgewood.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Rick Peck A Rich Kelly column: Rick Peck... his legacy born at CLA

    We all leave a legacy of our persona as we pass from this world to whatever the future holds for us.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • BB2 Scholastic Statistics:

    Edgewood 14, Madison 3
    at Higgins Field, Edgewood

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Area High School Softball Statistical Leaders:

    INDIVIDUAL BATTING (minimum 15 at-bats)
    PLAYER    SCHOOL    AVG    OB%    SLG%    AB    R    H    2B    3B    HR    RBI    SB
    Brittany Baitt    Riverside    .645    .667    .806    31    11    20    3    1    0    8    0
    Cassidy DiFranco    Riverside    .588    .632    .647    17    7    10    1    0    0    0    0
    Alyssa Chadwick    Conneaut    .563    .630    .625    32    12    18    2    1    0    6    5
    Alyssa Irons    Jefferson    .526    .526    .632    19    5    10    0    1    0    9    2

    April 23, 2014

  • Scholastic Schedule:


    Niles McKinley at Lakeside (4:30)
    Bloomfield at Conneaut (4:30)
    Maplewood at Grand Valley (4:30)
    Riverside at Edgewood (4:30)
    PV at Mathews (4:30)
    Orange at Perry (4:30)

    April 23, 2014

  • Tribe Royals crown Wahoos to split first two games

    The concerns about Indians starter Danny Salazar continue to grow.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Edgewood SB Warriors whack Struthers

    Edgewood softball coach Steve Cunha’s main focus for the season centers on his team playing well in the All-American conference. In their inaugural season as part of the AAC, the Warriors continued their strong start by defeating visiting Struthers, 8-2, on Monday afternoon.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Falcons go the extra Niles

    Jefferson coach Scott Barber knows good things usually happen when you put the ball in play and put pressure on the opposing team’s defense.

    April 22, 2014

  • Emotional rescue

    Three Ashtabula area runners joined 36,000 of their closest friends Monday during the 118th rendition of the Boston Marathon.

    April 22, 2014

  • Spartans stymied

    Ursuline pitcher Makayla Shore freely admitted she didn’t quite have her best stuff against Conneaut on Monday at Skippon Park. Despite that fact, the hurler tossed a no-hitter to beat the Spartans, 10-0.

    April 22, 2014

Sports Week in Review April 14 to 19
Sports Week in Review April 7-12
Spring Sports Practice in Ashtabula County
2014 AP BB Tourney Top 25
2014 AP BB Tourney Scoreboard
2014 AP BB Tourney News
2014 AP BB Tourney Photos
Star Beacon-Ed Batanian Senior Classic
Girls Regional Basketball Action
Week of Champions
Sports Week in Review February 21, 22
Grand Valley at Edgewood Boys Basketball
Sports Week in Review Feb. 3 to 8
Sports Week in Review January 30 to Feb. 1
Sports Week in Review January 13-18
Sports Video Archive
House Ads
AP Video