Team TimeMay 24, 2019
Story by Hendrix Magley
Photos by Daniel Vasta and Sarah Ann Jump
In order to be successful at a sport, or anything in life, you have to take the time necessary to work hard and hone your skills any way you can.
But the results from practicing a batting stance or working on how to make a serve more intimidating are only part of what you see on game night.
With team sports, perhaps the most important practice one can get is growing closer to teammates. It’s one of the main reasons so many local athletic programs have enjoyed a tremendous amount of success over the years.
Here’s a look at what a few area sports teams have done to bond with one another — or in some cases, even with a county rival.
Forest Park & Northeast Dubois Girls Tennis
While it’s not uncommon to see teammates bond with one another, it’s not every day you see two county rivals come together — immediately after playing against each other.
The Forest Park and Northeast Dubois girls tennis teams have maintained a tradition of sharing a pizza and ice cream party following their annual regular-season matchup.
What started this friendly gathering between rivals? Northeast Dubois head coach Tina Terwiske and Forest Park assistant coach (and longtime head coach of the Rangers) Tara Uebelhor are sisters. Uebelhor began coaching in 1995, and it was then that the tradition began.
“I think the main point [of starting this] was that we’re very competitive, and it was a way to bring us together after the match,” Uebelhor said. “No matter who won or lost, we knew we’d get together and enjoy pizza together.”
How much do the players enjoy this friendly meeting between rivals? Both the Jeeps and Rangers were so determined to have the pizza and ice cream party this year that they spent nearly an hour drying off Forest Park’s tennis courts after an earlier rainstorm in the day.
It doesn’t appear this tradition will be going away anytime soon, and it’s safe to say both the players and coaches are grateful for that.
“When I was in high school, knowing someone from Forest Park was uncommon. But now with social media, they know each other when they come out and compete,” Terwiske said. “You’re friends before [the match], you’re friends after.”
Jasper Boys Swimming
Of all of the different ways teams can bond with each other, the Jasper boys swim team may have one of the most unique — shaving each other’s heads.
While this technique is actually rather common in swimming (studies show that swimmers who shave their body hair tend to glide through the pool faster), what sticks out the most about the Wildcats’ haircuts is that the athletes trim each other until everyone is bald.
“It provides a way for the team to all spend time together preparing themselves for the sectional meet,” Jasper head coach Kristin Gutgsell said. “It’s the final mental step for them to know that they’ve worked so hard during the season and they’re now prepared to perform their best in the pool.”
When senior Andrew King first joined the Wildcats swim team as a freshman, he says he was shocked when he found out everyone had to shave their heads.
“It was kind of hard to get used to that at first,” Andrew said with a laugh. “I remember looking in the mirror and thinking this was crazy. But then when I realized everyone else on the team did it, it made me feel a lot better.”
According to parents and former swimmers, this tradition has been around the Jasper swim program for at least the past four decades. While it not only has helped the Cats perform better in the pool, Andrew believes it helped him get closer to his fellow simmers during his four years with the program.
“Even though you get closer and closer together throughout the seasons, shaving our heads together was just fun,” Andrew said. “After the season you’ll see people in the hallways at school with beanies on and others with bald heads and you’re like, ‘Hey, they’re on my team.’ It makes you feel connected with each other.”
Northeast Dubois Track and Field
When Northeast Dubois head track and field coach Leslie Denu was a runner for the Jeeps during her high school days, she can recall the team going to places like Noble Roman’s Pizza and other spots away from school for team hangouts.
Even though the location of the bonding may have changed since then, the Jeeps still pride themselves on having a big end-of-the-year fun fest to help both the boys and girls track teams take a break before sectional.
“We bring in different games and things and really just try to get all of the athletes on a more relaxed level,” Denu said. “We had a bonfire, pizza, s’mores, cornhole, football, frisbees and, of course, dodgeball. That’s their favorite.”
Senior Matthew Jacob was one of the students who enjoyed dodgeball the most, even though the seniors lost to the sophomores in the championship.
“The sophomores only won because they had (assistant coach) Blake (Ziegler), though,” Matthew said. “He kind of got us all out, he’s just an animal.”
There’s no denying that the Jeeps are competitive with each other during practices and meets, so you can only imagine how feisty the athletes got when competing in the fun events.
“We all get really into it,” said senior Hannah Schepers. “These events have gotten me a lot closer with the younger classes than I thought I would.”
The Jeeps believe that while these events are a mix of fun and competition, it helps bring the team together right before their biggest meet of the year.
At the end of the day, that’s the main goal.
“I’ve always thought with team bonding type of things, it helps the people that need motivation,” Matthew said. “It helps bring the whole team together to just cheer each other on — we’re competitive, but we’re also friendly.”
The Jasper Wildcats have remained one of the most consistent softball programs in the area during the past four seasons as they’ve won conference, sectional and regional titles.
Since Matt Pryor took over as the head coach of the Cats, the team has started its season with an all-inclusive team get-together that has become known as “Inspiration Night.”
The event, held at the Jasper softball fieldhouse right next to the fields, starts off rather lighthearted with several “Minute to Win It” type games. The night then becomes more serious.
Each player picks a word to help define their season, and the seniors pick a motto for the year. This season’s group selected “Leave No Doubt.” Each member of the team and coaching staff discusses the word they chose and why, their hero and a hardship that they’ve dealt with during their life.
“I think it just makes everyone trust each other so much more,” senior Rachel Gress said. “We all know something personal about each other.”
Fellow senior Taylor Mitchell added: “It opens up everyone to life outside of conditioning, practice and games. It helps us get to know a little more about the people that we’re going to spend three to four months of our life with.”
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