Elizabethton girls program hardly an overnight success

By Ivan Sanders

STAR CORRESPONDENT
isanders@starhq.com

   The 2001-02 season brought resurgence of success in the girls basketball program at Elizabethton High School and its junior high feeder program from the fourth and fifth grade level all the way to the friendly confines of A.L. Treadway gymnasium.
   Desiring to identify the key elements of the program's drive to success, I spoke with three men that could likely shed some light on the subject: Coach Mike Wilson - head coach of the EHS varsity program; Harry Farthing - assistant coach to Wilson and head coach of the junior varsity program; David Hilton - T.A. Dugger Junior High head coach.
   The quest began at the Jr. High level where the achievements of the school's program from the sixth grade level to the eighth grade level were absolutely mind-boggling.
   "The process all begins at the youth league level where knowledgeable coaches get the ball rolling with sound fundamental instruction," stated Hilton. "Another beneficial factor is that the girls are beginning to play at an earlier age and the parents are getting their kids involved in basketball away from the school gym."
   Success doesn't come without struggles and the program at T.A. Dugger had its fair share.
   "We were lucky at one point to have only 10-12 girls to select a competitive team from," said Hilton. "It isn't uncommon now to have anywhere from 20-25 girls who want to be a part of the team."
   Hilton went on to add: "I think that the coaches at all levels have developed a communication line where we are able to all get on the same page as far as what we are wanting to instruct our girls to do. The media has also been a positive influence because the girls realize they are being recognized and seeing their names in the paper seems to make them play harder."
   If any one of the three men knows the downs and ups of the girls basketball program, it would have to be Coach Farthing. A little over five years ago, Farthing took over the fledgling girls program at T.A. Dugger that was accustom to trying out in October, practice for two weeks, and then play their regular season only to quickly stow away their gear after faltering early in the tournament.
   "The first couple of years I realized that we were way behind on the power curve of Unicoi County and Vance Jr. High out of Bristol," said Farthing. "Coach Hilton joined me as the seventh grade coach and it has basically took us five years to build the program to where it is now."
   Farthing and Hilton began taking the girls to Appalachian State University in Boone, NC for basketball camps. These trips came as a result of the parents holding fundraisers as well as excellent support from the school administration.
   Said Farthing: "A lot of things begin to change. We were allowed to hold our tryouts in the spring to select our next season's team. Also, the girls participated in the Girls Corporated Summer League which allowed them to keep the ball in their hands 8 to 9 months out of the year instead of coming in without even touching a basketball between seasons."
   Recently another endeavor was undertaken by a group of parents who wished for their girls to have more fundamentally sound instruction and the opportunity to play in some tournaments outside of school ball.
   The Twister program, as it is now called, is filled with volunteers who are knowledgeable in the game and wish to pass that knowledge on to young ladies who want to participate.
   Many may think that all these avenues were useless waste of time. Yet, all they have to do is look at the success each level has achieved to realize that it has been time well spent.
   T.A. Dugger's sixth grade team coached by Dwight Treadway finished the 2001-02 season with an overall record of 17-0, playing against teams in Johnson City due to the lack of teams available in the area in the same age group.
   Coach Doug Fritz's seventh-grade squad also had a stellar campaign finishing with an unblemished record at their grade level, 17-0 and 17-1 against Cloudland's eighth grade team in tournament competition.
   Hilton saw his squad play tough, taking second place in the conference while beating Science Hill in the tournament. The eighth grade squad finished with a 12-4 mark on the season. Added together, this would give the Jr. High program an unheard of 46-4 record for the year.
   Farthing's junior varsity team at EHS played well and had good success at playing some girls who might not having gotten much playing time had Rikki Baughman and Tanya Dykes played for Farthing instead of moving up to varsity.
   The JV team managed to close out with a 12-7 mark for their efforts.
   Elizabethton High had a banner year in girl's basketball, reaching the regional semi-finals before being beaten by an always-tough South Greene team. Coach Wilson's team went 17-9 in the win-loss column for the season.
   All totaled, the girls basketball program in Elizabethton finished with an astronomical 75 wins and 20 losses on the year. Can you say "awesome"?
   It is easy for one to see why Coach Wilson is all smiles these days and excitement abounds from the coaching staff all the way down to the girls.
   "The girls basketball program is in the best shape ever," said Wilson. "We have a good mix of kids from the freshman class all the way up to the senior class who are coming in at a young age ready to play."
   With talent at the high school level like Baughman, Dykes, Lacy Lane, Brandi Forbes, and Valneesha Redd to mention just a few, added to the new faces that are beginning to influx EHS make for a bright horizon in Elizabethton girls basketball over the next few years.
   Said Wilson: "With all this talent and a great coaching staff in Lori and Harry, we should be good for quite sometime. We are concerned about not having a lot of big post players, but there are a lot of good skilled people on the team."
   Wilson had nothing but high praise for the efforts of the parents working with the Twister program. It was very gratifying to him that parents are willing to invest their time in these young ladies.
   Wilson identified three things he felt was a key for success at whatever sport a young person should desire to succeed at.
   Said Wilson: "The first thing is that an individual must have athletic ability. Secondly, that person has to be a competitor or someone who wants to win and hates to lose. Finally, that player must truly love the sport they are participating in."
   It should go without saying that all the girls that are involved in the basketball program from T.A. Dugger all the way to Elizabethton High possess the three key elements just mentioned by Wilson.
   Their record on the court proves it!