Gervais asks: Who's got game?

Answer: Juneau-Douglas High School's first-year coach Bill Chalmers

Posted: Friday, October 14, 2005

When I need a little "got game" inspiration locally, all I need to do is walk down the halls of Juneau-Douglas High School or read the paper on Sunday.

In the halls, I talk to kids about upcoming challenges and personal goals. I asked Katie Krehlik whether she likes hockey or running better. She says, "running." I ask why. I think she said something like "It's bliss," but I'm not quite sure because the twinkle that sparkled in her eyes had such a powerful impact on me that I found myself distracted from her words. Katie Krehlik's got such big game for such a spunky little thing.

In the paper, I read every word about whatever sports are in season. Kirsten Jorgenson was my student last year, and I really enjoyed checking in with her about her cross-country progress. This year, I had been challenging her to catch Katie. My interactions with her leading up to the state meet were short and less jovial. I could tell the pressure was on and Kirsten was mentally ready. When I read that her body gave out on her within sight of the finish line, my heart sank. When I read that she got herself together, stood up, and finished the race, I jumped to my feet and did my goofy little Gervais victory dance for her. Watch out Katie. Kirsten's got game too, and she is on your heals.

Coach Rielly Ritchie had big time game, and I'm sure he's getting himself mentally ready for the games to come. Even though Coach Ritchie is not going to physically be on the field this year, the boys in the red shirts in the halls are carrying him around every where they go. Today they are flying him to Anchorage to start their bid for a state championship. Do you think you Coach Ritchie passed a little of his game on to this impressionable group of boys? Do you think they've got game? I say, "Heck, yeah!" If you can feel me then let me here you. "Heck, yeah!"

When I opened the paper last Friday and I saw the individual photos of the players, I thought great, now I can put some faces to some names. Then I started laughing to the point of crying. Angelo Katasse's photo was so him. I want a copy. The photos of the Kohan brothers pointing at one another made me sing, "Un huh, un huh!" Brian Maller once pushed my face into a delicious piece of marionberry pie, only after I did it to him. His innocent, contemplative photo made me laugh. Scanning through the rest of the photos, I realized that even though these boys lived through the crushing death of their coach, they are back. They are strong, and they are ready for what's to come, win or lose. Most of all, I realized that someone has taught them to enjoy life and to have some fun every chance they get.

Even though the field of candidates for the Gervais "Who's Got Game" award is huge this year, I've got to give it to Coach Bill Chalmers. If you haven't met Bill, you should seek him out. I do when I am feeling low and need inspiration. He is a cross between Santa Claus and God, and is the gentlest big dog I know. Bill gets the award. When he has a choice between flying out early on a Friday for an away game or waiting for the evening flight, Bill generally stays so his students will see him on that day rather than a sub. Bill values teaching so much that he is on his 45th year of it. He was teaching before I was born, and he is still doing it. Not only that, but Bill also recognized that this bunch of boys needed him to keep the good Rielly Ritchie mo-jo moving in the right direction. So he sleeps on the gym floors when he is out of town, and though he looks tired some days, he never complains.

So what do you say Juneau? Let's rally this community around these boys. Whether you win or lose gentlemen, you've already got game in my book. And when you need a little support, just find your way to Coach Chalmers and pat him on the back, or the butt for that matter, because that man is magic and he is working really hard to rub it off on you.

• Mary-Lou Gervais is a math teacher at Juneau-Douglas High School.

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