It’s been almost a year since I stepped away from the sports desk at the Bitterroot Star but I haven’t left sports behind. Instead, I have become that grey-haired granny in the stand yelling, clapping, and stomping, following the Victor Pirates once again. I have a couple of grandsons playing junior varsity and varsity games, as well as some special girls on the Lady Pirates team.
I had forgotten how fun it was to be a fan amongst fans. Previously I had always separated myself from the crowds as best I could. Now I’m right in the middle of it. The sense of pride and community is really something to be proud of.
It’s this sense of community that has given the Pirates a boost this year. This group of boys, no, young men, has been an awesome journey to watch as they have made their way through trials this past year.
A little something about these boys: most of them have been together throughout grade school and high school. A few have come in later and they have been welcomed into the fold.
These boys are not afraid to show emotion and show how much they care for each other. I have to admit, I’m a little biased. When my grandson Roan moved back here three years ago as an eighth grader, he brought something to the group. He never left without telling his friends that he loved them. He never finished a phone call without telling whomever that he loved them.
At first, these kids were a little uneasy because, well let’s face it, that’s just something you don’t do, especially if you are a young male. But he continued to tell his friends that he loved them and after a bit, a few started saying it back. Almost all of them say this now as they are leaving. Some even tell their family that.
With the uncertainty of these past two years, it was difficult to always stay connected, but this group has done that. There were times when one of the group had problems but someone was always there to lend an ear.
Even though most of the boys had summer jobs, open gym kept them connected. When football began, you could see how tight this group was. The team had some success on the gridiron. But midway through football season, tragedy struck. One of their own, a fellow Pirate, was killed in a terrible accident. His death affected each and every one of the boys on the football team, the girls on the volleyball team, and the entire student body at Victor.
How do teens deal with this? Of course, there are their families, but they also rely on each other. Their farewells of ‘I love you’ took on much more meaning. The hugs they gave each other were just a bit longer. The close knit group of boys and girls helped each other through a very difficult time. Most of the basketball players, both boys and girls, have a large DT on the back of their warmups to honor their friend.
This group of young men have not had a lot of wins in their sporting history. With new basketball coaches last year, they were given the chance to win. They had a few wins in football and then moved on to basketball. Winning is not only executing the plays of the game the best, but it’s also learning how to win; learning how to pick yourself and your teammates up when you are behind. This is arguably more difficult than the actual techniques of the game.
After a promising start to this year’s basketball season, the Pirates hit a slump. They could not win a game. But they kept working, and they relied upon their faith in each other to get into the winning mode. When one of the players got hot, it fueled the rest of the team and since the early part of January, the Pirates have figured out how to win. They have won their last four conference games.
The closeness of this team flows over to the Lady Pirates. Because Class C basketball has girls and boys playing the same teams on game day, the boys and girls are there to support each other. They sit together and are like a very large family, teasing and talking all at once. But when someone is a little down, you’ll see another Pirate or Lady Pirate come over and talk to them, throw an arm around their shoulder, and say, “I love you.”
That warms this granny’s heart.