Youth sports provide sanctuary

Sports and the venues where they are played are certainly a sanctuary for the competitive animals that are humans. We grow up finding peace and strength in the games while being able to focus on growth and stability in the environments reserved for competition.

You can’t stay in the sanctuary forever, but even when our playing days are over, we have memories of all the places we visited for contests, and hold dear to our hearts the practice and game fields that we once called home.

Much is learned while competing and striving for a win. Friendships and bonds that last a lifetime are formed, and rivalries develop to help fuel the fires of inspiration. Locally, we are all Mountaineers, but not always on the same team.

It is funny how oftentimes our rivals eventually become our friends after the grudge is removed by maturity. Sports have a way of twining people together in many different ways — and forging opportunities to know others that we would not have had otherwise. The events take us to schools and venues that each have their own uniqueness, becoming places forever etched into our minds.

Like so many of us, I have countless memories of my past in athletics, with so many special highs and lows, and lots of good times I will treasure for a lifetime. Of course there are some people and particular events that remain more vivid than others, people like EHS Class of 1993 All-State athlete Junior Lawrence.

I graduated from Philip Barbour that same spring, and eventually got to meet Junior and truly get to know a rival a lot better in the summer to follow. Before that, however, for years he had been the one to beat when it was game time. Going back to middle school, when I led the Philippi Middle Bulldogs basketball team in fouls, Junior emerged as a vocal Elkins Hornet on the hardwood. His performances backed up his swagger, all the way through his senior campaign for the Tigers.

I didn’t play basketball or baseball in high school, but I went to the games. I can still visualize being in the bleachers at the Colts’ Corral in the winter of 1992 or 1993 when the orange and black was in town for tip-off in what is now the auxiliary gymnasium at PBHS. The student section and Mr. Lawrence were going at it. We were chanting “Junior, Junior,” trying to get into his head. I can’t say now if we actually did, or even who won that game without pulling a yearbook out.

He also was a powerful running back and a stud on the baseball diamond. I got to get to know him better as teammates on the North Bears squad for the state’s annual high school all-star football game. I also had a friend who played Post 29 legion ball with Junior, and I spent a lot of time in Elkins that summer.

Whether it be the people, the venues, or one of the other many great take aways that sports provide for us, there are so many positive experiences in so many ways for everyone involved. Play ball, kids, unplug and have fun in a great sanctuary!

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