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Success is difficult to define in high school

February 8, 2011

North Smithfield's Corinne Coia is surrounded by her parents, Corey and Jay, after scoring her 1,000th career point for the Lincoln School girls basketball team on Monday night.

Some things I think I think:
It was nice to see North Smithfield’s Corinne Coia gain some local recognition for her productive basketball career at Lincoln School. The 6-foot-4 senior, who has signed a letter of intent to play for the University of Rhode Island, scored 25 points on Monday night and now has 1,019 points in her career. She passed 1,000 career rebounds earlier this season.
Coia’s decision to go the private school route has turned out perfectly. She reaped the educational benefits of attending Lincoln School, which has a beautiful and secluded campus tucked off a side street near the Blackstone Boulevard in Providence. And her basketball potential was enhanced while playing for head coach Christina Batastini-Sheehan, a Rhode Island product who succeeded in a big-time college program at Stanford University.
Others have tried the private school route with not quite the same results. Woonsocket’s Mike LaPlante came out of his two years at St. Andrew’s School in Barrington with a high school diploma and not much else. LaPlante might have been better off staying at Woonsocket High and learning the game from former URI starting forward Kyle Ivey-Jones. But that’s all hindsight. You can’t second-guess decisions people make with their lives. You only hope they keep battling until things turn in their favor. Never give up is not just something sports coaches preach. It applies to real life, too.
Pawtucket’s Rakim Sanders had better luck at St. Andrew’s, playing his way into a full basketball scholarship at Boston College, where he played for three seasons before leaving the program after Al Skinner got fired.
Sanders is now sitting out a season while preparing for a final college season at Fairfield (Ct.) University, where he will play for former BC assistant Ed Cooley.
The private school option remains attractive to young basketball players who dream of earning a college scholarship. Tolman High’s Diandra DaRosa transferred to St. Raphael Academy after a sparkling freshman season. St. Raphael Academy’s Charles Correa, a sophomore point guard, is learning the game from veteran coach Tom Sorrentine, an old school mentor who has sent several of his former players on to Division I college programs, mostly notably Jeff Xavier, who finished up at Providence College two seasons ago.
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The elite players in high school basketball have their own decisions to make. But they are not the only kids trying to attain some form of success and achievement. I find myself thinking at times about this year’s Woonsocket High boys team that has won only one league game and three games overall after four straight seasons in the playoffs.
Here’s my question: How do you judge this year’s team? Certainly not by wins and losses. In this case, the best measuring stick is whether the players stick it out. Do they just play out the schedule while going through the motions? My sense is that the players who remain on this team are trying as hard as they can. They are also learning a valuable lesson about life.
Their success as high school students is not connected to wins and losses on the sports fields. Success comes from sticking with a job you started. Maybe the lesson for these Woonsocket players is that you never give up, even when the odds are stacked against you. Completing an assignment under duress is a great learning tool for the world that awaits them, whether in a college classroom or the Army or a job that awaits them in the community.
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Former Woonsocket player Mike Akinrola, now finishing up his junior year at Rhode Island College, is an example of a young man who made the right decision about where to go to school. “Big Mike” was kind of a shy kid in high school. He has come a long way in the intervening three years, blossoming as a student and a basketball player. Mike said last week that he wants to become a state trooper or policemen when he completes his education. It is good news for those two organizations that a young man the caliber of Mike Akinrola wants to become a law enforcement official.
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The thing about high school sports that nobody likes to talk about is how some student-athletes disappear in the middle of a season due to poor grades. There’s no shame in this. Academic life is just as volatile as sports competition. Teachers just put grades on classroom performance instead of wins and losses. Both pursuits are ongoing affairs. A basketball player can lose his eligibility in mid-January, disappear from the team, and use that extra time in his life to study harder and make better grades heading down the home stretch towards graduation.
In the long run, it’s a lot more important to win the battle of the books than it is to stay eligible and help your team win a few games that will soon be forgotten. Nobody cares whether your team finished under .500 or missed the playoffs. But if a young person loses the battle for a high school diploma, that’s going to negatively impact his life for years to come.
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One other thing: The smartest kids in high school aren’t guaranteed anything. They may be surpassed over the years by fellow students who keep plugging away, day after day. Having a great work ethic and strong values is just as important to success in life as any mental skills. Life is a long-distance run. The race doesn’t really go to the swiftest, or the brightest. It goes to the runners who are prepared to go the distance. It goes to the people who stay the course and never give up.

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