Jock Talk: The Last Lap


Photo from Staples Soccer Blog

Jack Hennessy ’10
Staff Writer

Photo from Staples Soccer Blog

I’ve now played three sports for 12 seasons under nine coaches, and I can’t imagine spending my high school years any other way. My life has revolved around tryouts, practices, and games more so than even papers, quizzes, and tests. I lost more sleep the nights before championship games than I ever did before calculus exams.

This might seem unfortunate to some, especially for someone who take pride in academic discipline and hard work, but I regret nothing, and here’s why:

In my opinion, there is nothing we learn in our studies involving social interaction that mimics the realities of adulthood more closely than what we go through on the court, field, ice or track.

Some may say it’s just a game; why waste your time playing useless games when you could be gaining life experience working or studying? But often times we must figure out complex issues, and how we work through these situations to find a solution reflects upon us in a major way. It defines a part of who we are as people and how we will interact with our community in the future.

Through sports, I learned different kids deserve different kinds of attention. You don’t yell at a shy and quiet, yet talented, kid in excessive indignation that he’s not adequately asserting himself; you take him aside and calmly remind him of his skill and right to be on the field and that he should have confidence in his abilities. A kid struttin’ a big ego, who’s talking plays off and acting lazy because he thinks he’s better than everyone else, might need to be taken down a notch.

Athletics prepare us for a whole host of circumstances that otherwise might not be encountered in our four years at high school.

The truth is, athletes have an advantage.

I walked into Dr. Kuroghlian’s English 1A class in room 2002 on the first day of freshman year rockin’ a slick new crew cut and an American Eagle outfit I had laid out days in advance. Dr. K wasted little time; he instilled in us the importance of extracurricular activities, and, more specifically, sports. He stressed the value of key lessons that we needed to learn prior to graduation that certainly would not be taught in the classroom.

This is what made Dr. K unique, and this is also what made him one of the most enlightened and inspirational educators to ever walk the halls of Staples High School.

Athletics help our overall education in various ways, I promise you this.

Probably the biggest reason: I have learned to budget my time with shocking precision. While most of my friends went home right after school and had over five hours to put off homework and fight Germans in “Call of Duty,” I got home at 5:30 or later and had a small window of time to lift, shower, eat and get my work done. There was never room for slacking off or waiting until later to finish my work.

There was no later.

After a tough practice, I had three, maybe four hours before I crashed.

This brings me to my next point: coaches. And different types of management? Playing soccer for Dan Woog on Loeffler is a far cry from running track in the field house with Laddie, which is a world away from trying to keep Jack McFarland happy on the diamond.

In the fall, we’d stroll down to the field where Dan would be waiting, clipboard in hand, with 15 minutes to put on our cleats and talk about the last physics exam or which junior got screwed out of the latest parking lottery: this was our grace period. Dan allowed this time to put the school day behind us; then, we were expected to remain on task.

The spring would run a little differently. As soon as Jack McFarland was seen walking down the steps at 2:30 it was time to run, stretch, and throw, no questions asked. He said it more than once – every minute wasted at practice is a minute another team in the FCIAC is getting better.

In the winter with Laddie, as long as you got in a long hard workout, Lad Dog was happy. On days when kids were goofing off during basic ten (our warm-up), he would immediately send a captain, assistant coach, or himself over to regain focus and remind us what’s at stake. On days where he needed to lighten the mood, he’d come through with a classic corny joke that only he could pull off.

All very different styles; all bring success. Sound vaguely familiar? How about in life when you run into countless bosses, all with different styles? You’d better be ready to adapt to their style, or it won’t be a job that will last.

I experienced both success and failure here, but that’s to be expected after living and breathing Staples sports for four years nonstop. It was at times exhausting, difficult, and frustrating. But in the end, it was always rewarding.

I owe the Staples Athletic Department much for its part in making me the person I am today. I’m proud to have competed for this school and its legendary coaches. I want to thank everyone for all they’ve done for me as an athlete, student, and person.