Whetstone girls coping with departure of coach
The Whetstone High School girls basketball team won just 12 games over the previous two seasons and lost to Brookhaven 70-35 on Dec. 4 to fall to 1-3, but the news it received two days later must have felt like a kick to the stomach.
As the Braves sat in a circle stretching, they were told by athletics director Kathleen Coughlin that coach Scott Radde had resigned.
"(Radde) didn't even tell us," junior Kalie Mascarello said. "He's never come to talk to us about it. We were all kind of hurt in some way by it."
Radde, who didn't return phone calls or e-mails regarding his departure, left the first-year athletics director in a difficult position.
With 13 players in the program, there is no junior varsity and no other paid staff position.
Coughlin, who played basketball at Upper Arlington and Ohio Wesleyan University under her maiden name of Cooper, coached the next three games so the team wouldn't have to forfeit.
She then handed the reins of the program temporarily to someone who has become used to dealing with wounds -- coaching veteran Bucky Walters.
A 1974 Whetstone graduate, Walters, whose first name is Steven, previously coached boys and girls basketball at Tree of Life and girls basketball at Linden-McKinley.
He currently also is coaching boys tennis and girls tennis at his alma mater.
Walters admits that when he gets into the heat of competition, he sometimes forgets that he's approaching 60 years old, particularly when he's doing a physical activity such as playing tennis.
That has taken its toll -- he has had 26 surgeries, including one on his back in November. Walters has been told by doctors that he isn't allowed to run for the next two months.
His first game coaching the Braves came Dec. 14, and they lost to two-time defending district champion Northland 94-24. The last time he coached basketball was as the Braves' j.v. coach in 2009-10 when the current seniors were freshmen.
Walters has attempted to install a faster-paced system that Mascarello calls "exciting."
The Braves were 3-9 overall and 1-6 in the City League-North Division before playing Beechcroft on Jan. 8. They beat Linden 44-20 on Dec. 21 for their first win under Walters.
Although Walters lives in Lancaster, he has played host to numerous activities for the members of the teams he's coached over the years. After a recent practice, he had dinner at his house for the members of his newest team.
Throughout the coaching change, Coughlin and Walters have noticed that the players in the program, which includes six freshmen and just three seniors, aren't letting the situation beat them.
"I told them that it's their attitude that will make the difference," Coughlin said. "I think they were just so stunned when it happened. It shows that sports is about overcoming obstacles. They've kept their spirits alive through it."
"The intensity on the bench (has increased)," Mascarello said. "You have the players on the court, but the intensity on the team is up because we're all there for each other. (Coughlin) wrote us a quote about it being time for us to start over. It's not the end for us."
Mascarello, who is in her third season as a starter, admits that "it's hard because I wanted to have a really good season."
Still, the reaction of the members of the team during this situation should help them learn to deal with obstacles throughout the rest of their lives.
It also can serve as a lesson to all of us about the importance of moving forward amid difficulty.
Jarrod Ulrey is a ThisWeek sportswriter. Follow his blog, "On the Recruiting Trail," for the latest in central Ohio high school recruiting news.