Aubry Bend Middle School’s eighth grade class presents athletic opportunity for the future

Seth Wingerter, staff writer

Twenty minutes into practice, Aubry Bend A2 boys basketball coach Taylor Stewart calls the A-team around him.  Thinking the team would be happy with a shortened practice, he attempted to strike up a bargain with the players.  The proposition was simple; if he made the shot, practice would be over.  However, instead of awaiting the shot with anticipation, the players awaited it with dread, begging Stewart not to shoot, simply because they loved to practice.

“I’ve never had a group like this before,” Stewart said. “They’re making us practice more than we say.”

This work ethic has brought them to where they are now — a group of athletes who have represented the school in three different sports, yet have never lost a game.  The seventh grade boys track team went 8-0, and the football A-team went 8-0, and both A-teams finished the basketball season at 8-0.  The perfect records were simply exhibitions of the hard work displayed throughout the seasons.

“They want to be out here; they want to try hard,” Stewart said. “They want to be the best they can be, and they work to do it.”

The team requires leaders to instill that work ethic into  teammates. Since many of the players have played together since early elementary school, the players hold each other accountable, which allows them to work harder and get better.

Peyton Manning is like a coach on the field, and everyone respects him more than a coach, and he can get on players,” Stewart said. “We have players like him, players that can get on a kid in the huddle so that we don’t have to.”

Players like those are plentiful on the team, but specifically A1 boys basketball player Nate Adamson looks to improve his teammates each day.

“Whenever we’re going through a down time, one of us will always step up,” Adamson said. “Not a day goes by when someone shows up to practice and says, ‘I just want to go home.’ Everyone steps up, and it really shows our leadership.”

Coupled with that team-wide leadership is a sense of enjoyment. Not only have the players been playing together since a young age, but they’ve also grown up together.  Each day, practice or game, they get to the court ready to work and have fun at the same time.

“I feel like all of us bond together well,” Adamson said. “Everyone gets along, and we’re always having fun. We’re just putting in work and getting results.”

The same themes of accountable camaraderie pervaded the football season and were a large part of its success. Stewart, who was also the defensive coordinator for A-Team football, said the team was unparalleled in his experiences.

That same defense set an unprecedented mark allowing six points all season, and those six points came in the first game. Even after winning that game by a sizable margin, the score nagged at them, as they were considerably upset that they even let up six points.  However, instead of becoming frustrated and defiant, they channeled the anger into determination, and the product of that were the seven consecutive shutouts to finish the season.

“They like each other and they hold each other accountable,” A-team head coach Kyle Meisner said.  “If a kid’s not hustling, they hold each other accountable.  If a kid’s late to practice, they say something to them.  I don’t care what level you’re at, if the players hold each other accountable, it creates a way better environment that breeds success.”

This accountability, shared between both the football and the basketball teams, not only created a successful environment, but a simply dominant environment.  While the basketball teams went undefeated, the football team had a winning margin of 338-6, which meant they scored over 42 points per game while allowing an average of less than one point per game. This success started with a distinctly different atmosphere — one of honesty and open-mindedness.

“When they talk to each other, they’re pretty pointed and honest,” Meisner said. “One of the hardest things I think for anybody, especially kids, is when you get feedback that is not what you want to hear, is how you respond to it.  One of the biggest differences is that when they’re giving feedback to each other, instead of getting mad at each other, they’re understand that they’re trying to help each other.”

By doing this, they avoid the opposite state of mind, one filled with excuses and close-mindedness.

“At 14, it’s pretty easy to get on board with making excuses, and if everyone around you is, then everyone is making excuses,” Meisner said.  “Even if you have all the talent in the world, it doesn’t always equal success.”

This commitment to improvement and avoidance of excuses is not only in the short term, but this class also sees the long term implication of its actions.  Like Adamson said, the players make sure they are at practice, but according to Meisner, they also make sure they are getting better on their free time too.

This accountability, shared between both the football and the basketball teams, not only created a successful environment, but a simply dominant environment.  While the basketball teams went undefeated, the football team had a winning margin of 338-6, which meant they scored over 42 points per game while allowing an average of less than one point per game. This success started with a distinctly different atmosphere, one of honesty and open-mindedness.

“When they talk to each other, they’re pretty pointed and honest,” Meisner said. “One of the hardest things I think for anybody, especially kids, is when you get feedback that is not what you want to hear, is how you respond to it.  One of the biggest differences is that when they’re giving feedback to each other, instead of getting mad at each other, they’re understand that they’re trying to help each other.”

By doing this, they avoid the opposite state of mind, one filled with excuses and close-mindedness.

“At 14, it’s pretty easy to get on board with making excuses, and if everyone around you is, then everyone is making excuses,” Meisner said.  “Even if you have all the talent in the world, it doesn’t always equal success.”

This commitment to improvement and avoidance of excuses is not only in the short term, but this class also sees the long term implication of its actions.  Like Adamson said, the players make sure they are at practice, but according to Meisner, they also make sure they are getting better on their free time too.

“They’re already talking about how, ‘Hey you better be at weights,’ because they all understand how that stuff helps,” Meisner said. “Sometimes collectively you get enough of the right personalities together that it pushes the whole group.”

While they are gearing up for the future, Southwest  is also gearing up for them. After only one state tournament appearance in football and none in basketball, the potential is there for this class to revolutionize Southwest’s sports by taking them to a new level.

“I couldn’t be more excited to have them,”  BVSW Head Football Coach Anthony Orrick said. “From what I’ve seen, there is nobody better in the district than those kids.”

Not only is their success prevalent in their playing skills, but also in their attitude, represented by their desire to win.

“They’re very competitive; they want to succeed and they want to win, and that’s what we need here,” Orrick said.

Further, when these two qualities are present in the players, history has said that there is good reason to believe in this successful future.

“At Pleasant Ridge, there were two years in a row that we were really good at basketball and football, and then those kids went on to win the state championship in basketball and football and baseball at Blue Valley West,” Meisner said. “We saw it at Pleasant Ridge, and it was the same kind of thing where they were all friends, but they worked really hard together.”

Roughly sharing the same perspective that Meisner has, Adamson feels optimistic about the future chances of success.

“I really hope it turns out well out Southwest,” Adamson said. “Unfortunately, we’re losing two players, but we still all get together well and we’ve been going to school together since second grade, so I hope it carries out.”

Welcoming a group of athletes that has never lost a game at the highest levels, the future is bright for Southwest, and Stewart specifically recognizes that.

“The freshmen and sophomores at Southwest, combined with these eighth graders, it’s going to be a good couple of years.”

“They’re already talking about how, ‘Hey you better be at weights,’ because they all understand how that stuff helps,” Meisner said. “Sometimes collectively you get enough of the right personalities together that it pushes the whole group.”

While they are gearing up for the future, Southwest  is also gearing up for them. After only one state tournament appearance in football and none in boys basketball, the potential is there for this class to revolutionize Southwest’s sports by taking them to a new level.

“I couldn’t be more excited to have them,”  Southwest  football head coach Anthony Orrick said. “From what I’ve seen, there is nobody better in the district than those kids.”

Not only is their success prevalent in their playing skills, but also in their attitude, represented by their desire to win.

“They’re very competitive; they want to succeed and they want to win, and that’s what we need here,” Orrick said.

Further, when these two qualities are present in the players, history has said that there is good reason to believe in a successful future.

“At Pleasant Ridge, there were two years in a row that we were really good at basketball and football, and then those kids went on to win the state championship in basketball and football and baseball at Blue Valley West,” Meisner said. “We saw it at Pleasant Ridge, and it was the same kind of thing where they were all friends, but they worked really hard together.”

Roughly sharing the same perspective that Meisner has, Adamson is optimistic about the future chances of success.

“I really hope it turns out well at Southwest,” Adamson said. “Unfortunately, we’re losing two players, but we still all get together well, and we’ve been going to school together since second grade, so I hope it carries out.”

Welcoming a group of athletes that has never lost a game at its highest levels, the future is bright for Southwest, and Stewart specifically recognizes that.

“The freshmen and sophomores at Southwest, combined with these eighth graders, it’s going to be a good couple of years,” Stewart said.