The late Green Bay Packer coaching legend Vince Lombardi once said, �It is easy to have faith in yourself and have discipline when you�re a winner. What you�ve got to have is faith and discipline when you�re not yet a winner.�
Hillwood girls� basketball coach Nicole Burgess takes those words to heart every time her team assembles for practice or readies for a game.
Burgess� squad is 0-20 and remains the only class AA or AAA girls� team in Nashville not to break into the win column yet.
�There have been several times where we�re out of the game early and have trailed 42-16 or 25-0 by the half,� Burgess confessed. �We start two freshmen and are very young. Winning has become a mental obstacle that is as tough sometimes as the opponents we play.
�My team is in a process of understanding that success is built around learning from the hard times. We can take positive steps to learn, or we can wallow in our losses.�
In Hillwood�s 68-41 district loss at Antioch on Tuesday, Burgess continually reminded her troops to keep fighting. Trailing 33-15 at the half, Burgess stressed mini-goals.
�In a lot of our games, we�re way behind and out of the game by the end of the first quarter.
�We dissect our execution and our hustle based on who we�re playing and what we can do against that team. We then try to achieve small victories throughout the game. ... The mini-goals are attainable and are a huge barometer to our improvement.�
Goals may include for her team to score a certain amount of points in a quarter or to hold an opposing key player to a certain point total for a quarter or to win the second half point total.
To the surprise of many coaches, Burgess has insisted that opposing teams leave their starters in for a while, although the game�s outcome has long been decided.
�I asked Kala (Wiggins) to leave her starters in when we played Overton because where else can my girls get that kind of workout and exposure to great players like Overton has?� Burgess continued.
�I�ll call a time out, then call a certain play to try and help a certain kid score or make a play to help that player. I had so many people after the game come up to me and say they appreciated what I was trying to do.
�You can�t judge any team just by its win-loss record,� explained Burgess. �Everyone is still staying positive. It�s about the individuals doing what they do and getting good at it. Collectively, that�s how you win.
�We�re not a terrible team, and we have improved since day one of practice. I do know that the 10 girls who play for Hillwood can hold their heads high based on effort and dedication.�
Burgess does not want to leave the impression that she�s happy with the current Hillwood losing streak.
�I�ve won or had a winning record with everything, so I�m learning and building character myself,� she laughed. �I�ve had compliments on how hard we�re working, and I make it clear. The goals I�m trying to reach � winning is one of them.�
Hillwood has seven remaining regular season games before tournament time, including tonight�s district visit by Centennial.
District 11-AAA undefeated leaders get together tonight when Overton hosts Franklin. However, it�s Overton�s girls and Franklin�s boys who are both undefeated in league play.
Stratford�s boys can clinch a portion of the 12-AAA district title tonight when they travel to longtime rival Maplewood in a district rematch. The Panthers lost at Stratford 74-66 in their first meeting Jan. 9.
Goodpasture and Ezell-Harding appear on a collision course for the District 9-A boys� crown. Both teams won on Tuesday with Goodpasture downing East Literature 79-52 and E-H beating CPA 64-45.
Tonight, Goodpasture visits CPA and Ezell-Harding visits its Antioch neighbor, Lighthouse Christian. More District 9-A rivals lock horns tonight when DCA visits FRA.
In Division II, Father Ryan hosts Brentwood Academy tonight in a tough district tilt. The visiting Eagles are still sky-high from their home 58-48 district upset over rival MBA on Tuesday.
MBA�s two leading players, Moses Osemwegie and Dominique Morris, along with Big Red head coach Ricky Bowers, all missed the important game with the flu.
Brentwood Academy�s towering 7-footer, David Harrison, had the right prescription for the Eagles� victory with 25 points and 15 rebounds. He remains quiet as to where he will play his collegiate basketball � either at Vanderbilt, North Carolina or Colorado.
A healthy MBA will attempt to bounce back tonight at Waverly.