16 great Indiana high school basketball team names

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Basketball. It’s a pretty big deal in our fair state. Around here, we like to say that in 49 states, it’s just basketball. But this is Indiana! Our passion for the hardwood goes back for generations. It’s a tradition that runs deep. So much so, James Naismith, the inventor of this beloved game, once said this about our infatuation with basketball:

“Basketball really had its origin in Indiana, which remains the center of the sport.”

Not only do we take our basketball seriously, but we also take our high school basketball team names pretty seriously, too. Sure, there are teams like the Trojans, Wildcats, Tigers, and Irish. Those are to be expected. There’s also the historic team names like the Bedford North Lawrence Stars and the Milan Indians. But if we’re honest, these names are rather unremarkable. And you probably find these names in every other state.

I know other high schools in other states have some pretty unique names (like the Science Hill Hilltoppers in Johnson City, TN, and the Daniel Boone Trailblazers in Gray, TN), but these high school team names in Indiana just might take the cake. If you could choose a winner based on team name alone, these teams would probably dominate the hardcourt. You might even call them the Sweet Sixteen.

Here they are in no particular order (except maybe number one):  Continue reading “16 great Indiana high school basketball team names”

3 more things my high school band director told me

Yesterday, I shared three things that my high school band director told me that have stuck with me over the years. But I wasn’t done. There are three more things that I need to share…
Low brass awesomeness

“Don’t mess with the Star Spangled Banner.”

You march onto the field, play the song exactly the way the audience expects to hear it. Then you march off. No fluff. Nothing artsy about it.

He was right. He still is. Every time some pop sensation tries to do something cute with the national anthem, that person gets lit up on the social networks. In a different context, it could be considered ground-breaking (see: Jimi Hendrix), but we are a nation of traditions. And if you’re going to perform the national anthem before a game, you’re better off just performing the song the way it was written and getting out of the way. If not, you might find yourself on some Top Ten Worst National Anthem Performances list.

Whenever someone messes with the national anthem, I just shake my head. “Mr. Briel was right,” I say to myself. “They should’ve listened to him.”

Blind fish and a prediction about our offspring

Mr. Briel opened class one day with a story. It wasn’t entirely unusual that he would tell us a story, but this one was a little different. He started talking about fish. But these were just any fish. They were blind fish that are found in caves.

Blind Cavefish

Then he started to discuss the scientific theory behind this phenomenon. Strange, I thought. I must have accidentally walked into biology lab instead of Concert Band. He explained that organisms adapt to their environment over time. Features that an organism needs in its environment continue to be strengthened. Other organs, like the eyes in the cave fish’s case, eventually phase out. Fish in a body of water in the middle of a cave don’t have any need for eyes, after all. There’s no light anyway. So over time, the fish just stopped growing eyes because they weren’t using them anyway.

Then he explained that the things an organism uses tend to be emphasized as their genetic makeup is passed on from generation to generation. At the same time, the things they don’t use tend to be minimized as an organism adapts over time. Sometimes, these features disappear altogether.

After giving us a brief scientific lecture, he paused and looked over the class.

“You know, I was thinking about this effect of passing along traits to our offspring as I was trying to figure out what happened during yesterday’s class. And I’ve come to this conclusion:

“Your kids are going to be born with no ears and really big mouths!”

You know, there are days when I think of this prediction and wonder if Mr. Briel might have had a touch of the gift of prophecy. Because…well…there are some days where it sure feels like he was absolutely right.

As they say, revenge is a dish best served cold. And I’ve had some pretty large helpings of that dish over the years.

“If you’ll switch to tuba, I’ll put you in Wind Ensemble.”

In 5th grade, I took up the trumpet. A cornet, to be specific. But that really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. I was part of the trumpet section, so we’ll just say I was playing the trumpet.

Anyway, I started playing the trumpet in 5th grade. I played it all through middle school and even marched as a trumpet during my Freshman year of marching season. I was decent. But I definitely wasn’t great at trumpet. My trumpet skills were nothing to write home about.

At the end of 9th grade, Mr. Briel came up to me towards the end of class. He had a proposal for me. We didn’t have anyone lined up to play tuba the next year. So he asked me and two of my Freshman trumpet buddies if we’d consider switching from trumpet to tuba. To sweeten the deal, he said that he’d put us in Wind Ensemble – the highest level of band at our school – if we made the switch.

So I switched. And my musical career took off.

Because of a scheduling conflict, I was not enrolled in Wind Ensemble the following semester. I was disappointed, but it turned out to be a great thing. Since I was the only tuba playing in Concert Band, I couldn’t hide behind anyone else. I had to quickly learn how to play my new instrument and I had to learn how to play it with power.

So I did.

Not to toot my own horn (no pun intended…or maybe it is intended), but I got to be pretty darn good for a guy who didn’t start playing tuba until the 10th grade. I wound up on the All-City Honors Band for two years. I played in a large brass ensemble at the State Solo & Ensemble contest. I participated in TubaChristmas for several years. I performed in several church orchestras and brass ensembles. I even had a tuba solo in a jazz concert while at Milligan. Turned out it was my final instrumental performance ever.

All City Band
All City Honors Band. Can you find me? I promise I’m in this picture.

I had a much better time playing tuba than I ever had while playing trumpet. And I have Mr. Briel to thank for that. Sure, he might have chosen me to play tuba simply because I was a pretty big guy and could handle carrying a giant brass instrument around. But that’s OK. I have no complaints. Because it still opened all kinds of doors for me.

And now I’m a bass line guy for life.

Mr. Briel impacted me in many ways. But this invitation to play the tuba? It was life-changing. And I cannot thank him enough for giving me that opportunity.

3 things my high school band director told me

Harrison Marching Band

I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that participating in the instrumental music program while I was in high school had a profound influence on my life. I’m not a professional musician (and I don’t play one on TV), but I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch to say that the music program might have been more influential on me than the English or science classes I took.

Don’t misunderstand me. This isn’t a slam on my English, math, and science teachers. Those classes were important. You hear me? They’re important! Don’t go dropping out of school, kids – especially if you’re my kids. And I hope none of my teacher friends misread what I’m saying here. I love what you do. Math, science, social studies, English…they’re all critical classes. Don’t try to convince me otherwise.

That being said, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that some of my closest friends from high school were in band with me. It also shouldn’t be much of a surprise that quotes and stories from Mr. Briel, my band director through most of my high school career, are some of my most fond memories from my days of walking the hallowed halls of Harry High.

As the current school year takes off and we are on the cusp of yet another season of marching band awesomeness in Indiana, the stories that Mr. Briel would tell keep repeating themselves in my mind’s ear. There are some valuable lessons in some of those stories. And they’re worth passing along. Here are a few…

“Practice makes better.”

You know the saying, “Practice makes perfect.” Right?

It’s bunk.

There’s always something you can improve. Always. And this is true even at the highest level. The best of the best are constantly improving. They have not reached perfection in their given field. So they keep working at getting better.

We will never “arrive.” No one has done anything perfectly. But that doesn’t mean we can’t keep improving and become the best we can be in whatever we do. And that takes practice. Lots of practice.

Because practice makes better.

Practice vs. Rehearsal

Practice is what you do on your own. It’s individual improvement. You practice to become technically proficient. You practice so things become second-nature. You practice to become the best you can be individually. Because, as I just told you, practice makes better.

Rehearsal is where everyone is working together. After hundreds of man-hours of individuals practicing, all the pieces are brought together in a rehearsal. In order to have an effective rehearsal, everyone needs to come prepared. They need to know their stuff so the band can make proper adjustments together. Rehearsal isn’t the time for individual practice. That needs to be done ahead of time. The most effective rehearsals happen when everyone has done the legwork beforehand during their individual practices.

I realize that this distinction might not be universal. But it certainly stuck with me. You practice in preparation to rehearse. You rehearse the way you perform. Because you only perform the way you rehearse. Things don’t magically change when you step onto the field or when you walk onstage. All of the hours of preparation through practice and rehearsal show their fruit when you perform.

“We’ll add that section when we get to Regionals.”

My Freshman year of high school, our band won just one trophy during marching season. It was a third place trophy. There were only three bands in our class. We were a doormat that year. And we weren’t much better the following year, either.

Winning hardware was fun, but all of these competitions during marching season were in preparation for the Indiana State School Music Association’s (ISSMA) organizational marching contests. They were kind of like a postseason tournament for Indiana marching bands. The system has changed since then, but in my day, there were three rounds to the ISSMA statewide contest: District, Regionals, and State. To move on from District to Regionals, you had to earn a Division I rating by earning a particular score or better. I think the minimum score was 60 out of 100, but I could be wrong. Everyone with a Division I rating advanced to the Regionals round. So your band was really competing against itself. It was entirely possible that all bands at the District level could advance to Regionals. If I remember correctly, we always went to Jasper, IN, for District.

There were two Regionals for each class in the State. The competition at Regionals was twofold. You were trying to earn a Division I, similar to the  District competition (requiring a higher score to earn a Division I rating). Your band was also competing against other high school bands for the right to move on to State. After all the bands performed, the judges ranked the bands, announcing the top five bands at each Regional. Those bands would then advance to the State Finals. Yes, it was entirely possible for a band to earn a Division II rating and still advance to State. But that was highly unlikely.

The ISSMA State Finals was made up of 40 of the top bands in the state (10 from each class). State was an all-day event where bands from each class took the field at the Hoosier Dome (it wasn’t called the RCA Dome yet) in competition. After each class performed, the bands were ranked from 1 to 10, with four bands being crowned state champions of their classes.

During my Freshman and Sophomore years, we didn’t even come close to earning a Division I at District.

Things started to click during my Junior year. The pieces started to come together. We marched to selections from the City of Angels soundtrack and it was a fun show. We knew something special was happening.

The Reitz Invitational might have been the first contest of the season (my memory’s getting a little hazy. Don’t you dare tell me that I’m getting old). We performed half of our show at that contest. That wasn’t too uncommon that early in the season. We were shocked when we heard the announcement over the PA during the awards ceremony that we, the perpetual doormat of Southwestern Indiana marching contests over the past two years, had won first place in our class.

We were on cloud nine. We had made our mark. And the region knew it. The Warriors were here and we were here to stay.

Very rarely did Mr. Briel talk about looking ahead to the end of marching season. We were pretty focused on the immediate future. We had to build upon our success with each subsequent contest. We had to get better. So we usually only needed to look ahead to the contest ahead of us.

During one of our rehearsals after the Reitz Invitational, Mr. Briel was sharing with us how much we were going to add to our show with each subsequent competition. As he charted things out, he told us how we were going to complete our show at District.

Then he paused and said, “Now, if you’re paying attention, you realize that there’s still part of the show that we haven’t added yet. We’re going to add that section when we get to Regionals.”

The place erupted.

It was a bold prediction. A confident prediction. It took some guts to say that to us. But we were ready. We were up for the challenge. And we did add that final piece to our show for our performance at Regionals. We ended the season with a Division II rating at Regionals. But we didn’t care. We were ecstatic to be there. And we had a lot of fun along the way.

Of my four high school marching seasons, I think I look back on the City of Angels show with the most fondness. We had more success my Senior year, and even earned a Division I at Regionals, but there was something kind of magical about that Junior year. Some of it might be because we were given a challenge and we rose to accept that challenge.

Just like Mr. Briel knew we would.

There are three more things that Mr. Briel told me that have stuck with me over the years. I’ll be sharing those tomorrow. Be sure to come back and read some more wisdom from a band director who probably had more of an impact on my life than he realizes.

W is for Washington Square Mall

A to Z Challenge 2013 W is for Washington Square Mall

Back in the Day

When I started high school, our school corporation had an open campus policy. One of the cool things about this was that we could go off campus for lunch. There was a church that was within walking distance to the school. They did some kind of nifty outreach that involved lunch and games (I honestly never went, but I heard some cool things about it). Of course, upperclassmen could drive off to who-knows-where during their lunch hour. Since I was an underclassman when this policy was in place, I was limited in where I could go because I lacked the freedom that comes with a valid driver’s license. Fortunately, some merchants at Washington Square Mall had gone together and paid for a school bus to shuttle students to and from the mall every day.

Genius. Pure genius.

Food Court at Washington Square Mall
image via Washington Square Mall

I’m pretty sure we kept some of their food court vendors in business. In the image above, you can see a wall in the background. There used to be a burger joint there. I ate there regularly. In fact, I was such a regular customer that they’d start making my order before I was even at the front of the line:

Student Special with cheese. Large Coke.

It was a cheeseburger and fries with a drink. I know. It’s not the best thing to eat on a regular basis. But it was affordable. And tasty. That wasn’t the only thing I ate, though. I also remember ordering the breadsticks and cheese dip from Noble Roman’s. I still love their breadsticks. So good.

After eating, we usually had some spare time before the bus would take us back to school. Being the non-gamer gamer that I was, my friend Matt K. and I would head over to the arcade and spend the rest of our time (and quarters) playing Cyberball. We were pretty good. In fact, I think we were unstoppable.

Cyberball arcade game
Image via Arcade Museum

Many would try to beat us. Few (if any) could. I tried playing the game on my own a couple of times. I didn’t play nearly as well because the computer-controlled player didn’t do what I knew Matt would’ve done. It was like I was playing with a hand tied behind my back. Or something like that.

My How Things Have Changed

Our school’s campus closed after my Freshman year. While I didn’t like it at the time, I’m pretty sure it was the right decision.

Washington Square Mall has changed a lot since then, too. I can no longer get the student special with cheese and a large Coke because the burger joint is no longer there. Of course, I wouldn’t be able to get my “regular” anymore anyway because I’m no longer a student. But that’s not the point. It seems that a lot of stores that I remember visiting at Washington Square Mall have gone the way of the burger joint – they’re no longer there.

I think the last time I visited Washington Square was in 2008. My heart broke a little as I walked through the nearly empty hallways full of unoccupied storefronts. It was a ghost town; a shell of what it used to be.

A Lesson Here

I’m sure there’s a lesson here. Maybe it’s that seasons change. Or maybe it’s that I should’ve broadened my culinary horizons and had a salad every once in a while. Or maybe something about relying on high school students to keep you in business. Or maybe the lesson is that if I’d kept all those quarters I’d fed that video game I’d probably be able to buy my own Cyberball machine by now.

I don’t know, but I’m sure there’s something could learn from it.

What do you think?

Once a Band Geek. Always a Band Geek.

We are the Warriors and the Warriors are Great!

The 1993-1994 Evansville Harrison High School Marching Warriors
I dug this up at my parents’ house when we were in town for a family reunion. I’ve already shared it with my fellow Recovering Band Geeks, but it’s too good of a picture not to share here.

So here’s the 1993 Marching Warriors.

Jasper District: Division 1
Evansville Central Regional: Division 1

Oh yeah, and that Division 1 at Regionals? First time ever. thankyouverymuch

Do you see me? Don’t you dare point at my brother and say it’s me. I might have to hunt you down. After all, I got plenty of the “You and your brother look so much alike” treatment at the reunion. 😉

First one to point me out (without cheating and looking at the tags on the Band Geeks facebook page)  wins! What do you win? Well…

nothing.

But at least you can proudly boast that you won. Right?