Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Great Basketball Memories

I get better and better every time I talk about. If I live to be 80 I suppose I will be the best basketball player who ever lived. Truthfully when I look at the way the game is played above the rim now they would run me off the court.

But that doesn’t stop me from having some great memories.

Last weekend Luke and I did something I’ve wanted to do for years. We stopped at the old Fort Valley High School Gymnasium. Of course it was locked but a very nice friend in the central office called another nice friend with the key and he came over to let us in.

The last time I was in that gym was the night I graduated from high school. That would pretty much be exactly 35 years ago. When I walked on the stage to get my diploma that night, Mr. McClendon shook my hand, looked me in the eye and said to me very bluntly, “I thought I told you to get your haircut.” We had a rule that a boy could not have hair over his ears. I got sent home several times during the school year by Mr. McClendon for breaking that rule. I would comb my hair behind my ears and come back to school. I wonder if there are any public high schools that have a rule like that now.

But back to the gym and my visit. I vividly remember my first practice in that gym. I guess that would be 39 years ago. After coming from Reynolds, the gym seemed huge and I was very nervous. As a ninth grader I had to try out for the B-team. There must have been 50 kids out there trying to make a spot on the team. I somehow made the team and actually got some playing time that year but they rotated people in and out of games so fast that it was hard to get in any rhythm.

My 10 grade year I was on the starting line-up on the B-team and we went undefeated. That was the only undefeated season I ever experienced. A few of us got to dress out on the varsity which was a big thrill. One night after I had played the entire B-team game the varsity was playing Vienna, our region rivals. The gym was packed, the game was nip and tuck and the crowd was going nuts. All of a sudden I realized the coach was calling me to go in the game. I was totally shocked but within the first few seconds of getting on the floor I drove in the lane and scored. It dawned on me that night that I could play with the big boys.

The next year was the year they integrated the schools. I worked very hard during the summer so I could compete with the athletes from Hunt High that would be joining our school. The school would be much larger and we would move to the largest high school classification. I played against some guys much stronger and much more athletic the next two years but I quickly discovered I could play with these guys as well. A little success breeds confidence. And confidence will allow you to take some risks. And when you get to where you are not afraid to take a few risks you put yourself in position to succeed.

I couldn’t play basketball now if I tried. But I did shoot a couple from that very familiar foul line. I have to say it was really good to visit this gym with my son. I don’t have to go back anymore now but it is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

As I was leaving I looked up in the bleachers at that very familiar spot where I always saw my mom and dad watching my every move seemingly another life ago. They kept up with every point I scored and cheered me every step of the way. And being the softie I am I left with a lump in my throat.

I look back now and realize the lessons learned here were not about basketball although I do get better and better every time I tell the story. But the lessons were much more about life. And the experience here had a lot to do with whoever I am today.


Anonymous said...

Its nice to go back, but important to keep going forward.

Judy S said...

The pictures of the gym sure did bring back memories. I watched many a game from those very bleachers. We are having a class reunion the first weekend of August. This will be the Class of '66, '67 and '68. I am really looking forward to this.Thanks for the memories. These words were printed on the front page of our yearbook. Raise H_ _ _ , We're Great, We're the Class of '68.

Anonymous said...

Daddy, that was fun. It was an odd feeling to look around and think that my own father played on this very same court when he was in high school...

PS: Tell Judy Sanders she shouldn't give out her graduation date. Old, old woman...


Anonymous said...


I really enjoyed reading this. It brought back alot of memories for me. I basically grew up in that gym as my sisters Emily and Jane played before me and I went to all their games--of course, Coach Fibbe thought I was going to be the type of power player that my sisters were--but I wasn't. When the coach would tell Emily or Jane to take a player out, they did and the player would end up in the 2nd row of seats--me on the other hand couldn't make myself be that agressive. I was jealous of their abilities in a good way--in todays world they definitely would have received a scholarship to play ball. I was so proud to let people know they were my sisters. I could write a book on those days.....Coach Fibbe was a hoot and always signed my annual by asking me if I had ever heard of the grapefruit diet or did I think that jumping 2 inches off the floor was really jumping. I got sent home by Mr. McClendon frequently for my skirts being too short--well, in the day of mini-skirts, it was hard for a girl of 5'10" to find anything long enough to meet dress code--holding your arms straight by your side and skirts length should reach the end of your finger tips (if I heard that once I heard it a hundred times). Oh well, those were the days and thanks for the memories.

Blessings to you,

Anonymous said...

Oh Bruce, what wonderful memories! Brings back thoughts of Coaches Faircloth, Fibbe, and Barnes. I had the honor of playing with some of the greatest "Greenwave" basketball players, ie, Fran McCord, Judy Maddox, Nancy Marshall, Lucy Liipfert, Virginia Belson, and my two sisters, Emily and Sue Yancey. Gosh, I can't tell you how many times we ran up and down those bleacher steps getting in shape you know. (I could use some of that now). I learned many life lessons in that old gym - just didn't realize that's what they were until years later. I was so fortunate to have grown up in Fort Valley where I had teachers, coaches, Sunday School teachers, and folks in the community who cared about you and expected you to do your best; whether on the basketball court or in the classroom. I can still remember looking up in the stands to see my Mama (looking for approval I'm sure). The big thing is she was there, as a matter of fact she was always there.

Yes, those were the days and I am so glad I got to be a part of it. Looking forward to seeing you in August for our 39th (that's for you Luke) reunion. GO BIG GREEN!!

I tried to send this comment on your blog but for some reason I could not get it to go so I'm sending it this way. Thanks for all you do for us out here in Blog Land! We love it! -Jane

Bruce Goddard said...

Jane and Sue, I remember watching both of you play basketball. I always had a "thing" for girl basketball players. Judy, I'm sorry Luke thinks you are old. Look forward to seeing all of you at your reunion. I might just bring Luke with me and let him defend himself...