by Taylor Williams
November 5, 2009 – Athletic success, whether on the court, the rink, the diamond, or the gridiron, is contingent upon numerous factors- preparation, determination, coaching, and team chemistry. What do these intangibles have in common? To an extent, they are within the human capacity to control. Consequently, sports fans are often left wondering why their teams continuously come up short, as that would seemingly reflect a lack of will and motivation. However, the truth of the matter is that in athletic competition there exist some factors which are completely beyond the scope of human control, and can truly make or break even the best of teams.
Take injuries for example. When New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady went down with a season ending knee injury in the first game of the 2008 season, the team that had previously been considered the best in NFL history seemed doomed. However, through sheer perseverance and rigorous adjustment, they managed to put up a winning season and register a playoff appearance. The 2008 Patriots team exemplifies the necessity of making adjustments to maintain momentum in football, and proved that winning is still possible with injuries. Following their example (on a somewhat smaller scale), the New Orleans’ Catholic League’s Archbishop Shaw Eagles have successfully overcome numerous injuries throughout the season to find themselves just one game behind 5A powerhouse Archbishop Rummel, who they face this weekend in the regular season finale. Looking at the results of their games (undefeated in district league play), as well as their depth on both sides of the ball, it would seem that the Eagles have had relatively smooth sailing. However, their fans know that it has been just the opposite, considering their recent promotion to 5A status, which has led to significantly heightened competition. Add the element of injury to that, and it makes the Eagles’ accomplishments even more impressive. In weeks three and four, the team lost starting wide receiver Jeremy Narcisse and cornerback Kyle McGrill, consequently dropping its games in those weeks. Since then however, the Eagles have made leaps and bounds under the adjustments made by head coach Scott Bairnsfather. A veteran coach of high school football, Coach Bairnsfather knows the importance of “moving things around to ensure that the best eleven players are always on the field.” This has translated into intensified practices, with the notion to “practices like you’re starting every game,” of utmost importance. The adjustments for injuries have also resulted in many players switching positions, or shifting from special teams to offense to give an added spark. It has also paved the way for the emergence of key players like Lawrence Braud, the starting running back who is averaging between 130-140 yards a game in district play, and Elliot Porter, the senior defensive end who rounds out an experienced defense and has committed to LSU. While the performances of these talented players has been extremely helpful in overcoming the injury obstacle, Coach Bairnsfather has been most pleased with the ability of his players to re-develop at different positions. In maintaining success throughout an injury plagued season, the coach places a premium on “how fast the players can grow and become efficient as starters in new positions.” His ability to implement successful adjustments has given the Eagles a remarkable run leading up to its showdown with Rummel, in what promises to be a dramatic display of the adjusted soaring that has characterized the Eagles’ season.