A darn good ball coach

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Kingwood Christian coach Jerry Stearns has had a tough year.

In the fall, he led the Lions as head football coach.

Ten times Kingwood lined up to battle AISA teams on the gridirion and 10 times Stearns had to walk across the field to offer a congratulatory hand shake to the opposing coach.

It’s tough to come up with a game plan when you don’t have a single senior leader to work around.

Even tougher when you’ve only got four juniors.

Harder yet, when two of them are foreign exchange students who have never played the game of football.

Throw in the fact that you’re stuck in a classification suited for a larger school, and you start to see the challenges Stearns was faced with this football season.

Most important of those was getting players who haven’t tasted victory in two years to strap it on each day, to hit the dummy with the same fire at 0-9 as they did at 0-0, to wrap up and make the tackle late in the game, to keep their butts down and their heads up even when the score made them want to do otherwise.

Stearns endured a tough season this year, but his players have become better players and more importantly, better kids.

After football was laid to rest, the Kingwood faithful turned to basketball, where the girls program had developed into a force to be reckoned with under Stearns’ system.

The girls basketball team looked to be Kingwood’s shot at redemption, at least in the win-loss column anyway.

Saturday, the Lions busted out of the locker room with a 27-game winning streak, ready to claim the state championship and the first perfect season in school history.

Fort Dale Academy had other plans.

The pains of losing are so much sharper when defeat becomes an infrequent guest.

The old spoiler paid his only visit to Kingwood’s girls this year on Saturday, slipping up the concrete steps and into the &uot;Brick House&uot; at Huntingdon College, just in time to pay his call on the Lions at the end of overtime.

Most of the girls cried. Many of the fans followed their lead.

You couldn’t blame them for feeling devastated, after all the hard work that went into such a spectacular season.

So here is Stearns, faced again with the task of mending broken hearts.

What do you say in the locker room to a team that came so close and watched it slip away?

If you’re a ball coach, you tell them the only thing there is to say.

You tell them it’s not what happens to them in life but how they deal with those things that shows their true character.

You tell them those final few minutes don’t take a thing away from an outstanding season.

That’s what Stearns told his girls Saturday, coaching ’em up the only way he knows how.

Jerry Stearns is a ball coach all right, and a darn good one.

Ashley Vansant is the sports editor at the Shelby County Reporter. He can be reached at mailto:ashley.vansant@shelbycountyreporter.com