By Ann Nelson & Keegan Sims
Rapidonian
Big Rapids HS
1st Place Division 4, Yearbook Verbal
Sports Feature Writing

JUDGING CRITERIA

  • Clear, relevant, engaging feature angle
  • Solid lead that draws reader into story
  • Meaningful student quotes that enrich story and reflect effective interviewing
  • Evidence of adequate research
  • Story meaningfully adds to sports coverage
  • Adheres to rules of good journalism including: short paragraphs, effective transitions and use of active voice, freedom from editorial comment, careful editing and proofreading to eliminate mechanical errors, correct use of grammar

“35 different personalities, 35 different problems, 35 different days coming together for one Friday night.” That’s exactly how head football coach, Mike Selzer, saw it. On the surface, it seemed like on ordinary September football game; the whistles, the huddles, and the light drizzling rain–but to the 35 players and coaches it was a game seven long years in the making–making it anything but ordinary. Big Rapids and Chippewa Hills share a rivalry that has spanned many decades, and on the line that September night was a trophy, the Pioneer Brass Bell, that hadn’t been in Big Rapid’s possession for a very long time. In anticipation of the big game, Selzer mentioned throughout the week that each game was a little bit different, each team was different, and each individual player was different. “One or two people having a bad day can determine the outcome of the game,” explained coach Selzer. “Look, we have 35 different perspectives looking at the same problem, there are many things that contribute to the outcome [of the game].” Knowing the importance of player perspectives and individual performances, the Cardinals prepared throughout the week like it was any other game. They wanted to replicate a normal week to avoid any unecessary differences. “Monday and Tuesday the coaches focused on intensity. Wednesday and Thursday the team was put in live situations where they had to think. Friday was all about building confidence,” said Reece Guitierrez 12 when asked about how the team prepared. The routine is a key ingredient and coach Selzer, in his 24th year of coaching, knew the recipe to success when it came to winning on Friday nights. He knew that any single change in the players routines would cause mistakes on the field when it was game time. “Some things are out of the coaches control, however we still have to try when we can to keep players from having an out of the ordinary day. We dislike special days like Homecoming–mainly because it is a change from the routine”. In fact, one player remembered a time when this was true, “Two years ago we had basically the entire day off on Friday for activities. We smashed a car, participated in races, and dunked our teachers. I remember coach was frustrated because we had tired ourselves out by game time,” said Jayden Mason 12. When it was time for the pregame warmups the players were exhausted–emotionally and physically, which had a negative impact on their game. With that knowledge in hand, Coach Selzer made sure that on these types of days his players spent time together as a team doing activities one might expect to see during an average school day. This mental preperation led to a better overall performance. Despite the careful planning put into keeping the routine, even without particiapting in the activities on Friday, the emotions of the week seemed to effect every player as the school hummed with excitement for the big game. Whatever the coach had done to prepare, it worked. “We were very comfortable going into this game. It didn’t feel like there was a lot of pressure on us.” said coach Selzer. “We executed well because we didn’t put that pressure on ourselves.” Three minutes before half time the momentum of the game had changed. The Cardinals were able to capitalize off from a turnover and go into the locker room with a 44-14 advantage over the Warriors. It wasn’t long before the final horn sounded and the players, emotionally drained, celebrated their victory. Knowing that they had found the key to success, establishing a routine, had coach Selzer feeling pretty confident for the rest of the season.