Press Box: Do seniors sit or play?

Patrick Sullivan
Posted 1/26/10

There are many reasons why most of us regular guys and gals are not cut out to be a basketball coach. One of those reasons is deciding who plays and who does not.

Some seasons it is easy: A team …

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Press Box: Do seniors sit or play?


There are many reasons why most of us regular guys and gals are not cut out to be a basketball coach. One of those reasons is deciding who plays and who does not.

Some seasons it is easy: A team will have a fairly even mix of younger and older players, so things just work out.

Other seasons, one particular class will have a host of players to compete for varsity time. (Eight of 11 starters on the 2009 PTHS football team were seniors; the top eight players on the 2008-09 PTHS basketball team were seniors.)

Another strategy that seems simple: Play the best players who give the team the best opportunity to win.

Or do you build a program where older players are rewarded for years of dedication by getting varsity time as a senior, whether or not they are the best players?

So what happens when your team is having a losing season? Does that mean a coach might as well turn to the younger kids who have a chance to improve and help the program next season?

"You really can't throw your young kids out there if you have a chance to win the game. That bums everyone else out," says CHS girls' coach Mike Clarke, who began his coaching career in the 1960s and starts two ninth-graders this season. "We try to win the games we possibly can. That's what we're out there for."

It gets even more difficult when it comes to high school seniors. What if a team has a couple of seniors who have stuck with the program and put in their JV time and improved (hopefully) and get to be seniors – and then find themselves on the bench behind younger players?

It's a no-win situation if a coach tells a player as a sophomore to stick with the program and earn playing time, and then not use that kid much as a senior.

Again, that decision can be easier when the only motive is to win games.

"I try not to let the grade influence who plays," said CHS boys' coach and former girls' coach Jim Eldridge. "If you are better than a senior you are going to play. If you are equal, I may go a little more with the senior. It's a tough call; you want the seniors to do well."


Another Vikings' mess

I spent enough time in Eastern Washington around WSU football to know what it means to Coug It – snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

And after being a Minnesota Vikings football fan since 1969, Sunday's 31-28 NFC championship game loss to the New Orleans Saints was just more of the same. They Viked It.

The Vikings have lost four Super Bowls and five NFC championship games. Plenty of teams wish they could have had a chance to win the games necessary just for the right to blow a shot for the title.

But until Sunday, no team had outgained its opponent by more than 200 yards and lost a NFL championship game. Those of us who watched the game know the story; it doesn't have to be repeated here.

Still, I've also been a Colts fan since 1969 and could root for New Orleans anytime. What a feel-good experience the Super Bowl run is for the Saints and their regional fans. I'm looking forward to the spectacle known as the Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 7. Kickoff is about 3:28 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.


Off the charts

I loved the selection offered by the CHS pep band at a game last week: the head-rocking theme from the film "Night at the Roxbury" (Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan fans know what I'm talking about), Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and a Blues Brothers anthem. It's a different generation of pep bands from those offering mainstays such as "Smoke on the Water" – the theme song from "Hawaii Five-O" – and the no-longer politically correct favorite "Tequila."


Score of the Week

Nisqually League 1A girls' basketball: Cascade Christian 72, Life Christian 16.


(Patrick J. Sullivan is the Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader sports editor. Contact him at


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