Voices of Youth: On and off the court, athletes and coaches influence each other

Bay City Central High is full of student athletes. The sports scene is prominent and the school population takes pride in their teams. As an athlete myself, I've grown to realize that my life is impacted far beyond the sport itself, but more so by the lessons and leadership my coaches have taught me off the mats, fields, and courts. I interviewed both students and athletes to learn how they positively impacted each other.

Basketball player’s passion inspires his coach 

Cameron Washington has a natural gift. The Bay City Central High School junior has played varsity basketball for three years and fans have seen this athlete shine and grow. Coach Jordan Duby watched Washington learn from every single defeat along the way behind the scenes. Duby is has been a true teacher for Washington, not necessarily just a basketball coach.

 “Everybody likes him, I want people to be like that to me,” Cameron smiles, looking up to his coach. He aspires to be like him in more ways than one, from his basketball skills to his 'good looks’ and how he takes care of his family.”

Washington makes clear his coach is a life mentor alongside biggest supporter. 

Coach Duby admires Cameron equally.

 “We spend a lot of time together, it’s just been really rewarding watching him grow into a young man,” Duby says.

High school is a time of change and character development as maturity arises and Duby watched Cameron grow up

“He’s been through a lot the past few years, everyone has, and he’s definitely taken on more of a leadership role this year. I’m excited to have another year to watch him grow.”

Duby, who also teaches history at Central, learns a lot from his student athletes as well. Cameron specifically has demonstrated drive and passion, which Duby admires and aspires to have himself. 

“I think one thing I take from Cam is his work ethic. He’s always out there trying to get better. As a teacher and a coach that kind of motivates you to continue to want to improve your coaching, improve your relationships and always try to get better,” Duby says.

Coaches and team cheer each other to victory

One of the Bay City Central cheerleading coaches says her athletes motivate her and inspire her to step outside her comfort zone.Being a cheerleader is more than meets the eye, and Coaches Hailey Fitch and Alison McCreery recognize that entirely, being fresh off the scenes of college cheer. Lexi Fulkersin is a sophomore with drive and determination, aspiring to lead her team despite her young age. 

According to Lexiher, she learned from the best watching Fitch and McCreery tackle their first year as Varsity High School Coaches. 

“They always know how to push me that little extra bit when it’s time to work. They know when to be stern with me versus when to put a smile on my face and make me laugh. Both are effective in motivating me to be better, it’s just a matter of what way I need to be pushed in the moment,” she says.

Lexi uses these tactics on her teammates as well, pushing them to be the best they can and showing a star leadership role for her team. Fitch and McCreery inspire Lexi off the blue competition mats as well.

 “They’ve managed to balance school, multiple jobs at a time and their personal lives while still being able to stay positive at practice. They’ve made me a better student and person, because even when I’m overwhelmed with schoolwork and practice, I remind myself to stay positive for those around me,” Lexi smiles.

The friendship Lexi developed with her coaches is the spark of most of the traits she has picked up from them.

McCreery truly sees something special shine in Lexi.

“Lexi is so determined. For me sometimes, and anybody in life even, you feel unmotivated and just kinda feel lazy and stuff but I see her being so motivated through her hardships. It makes me feel like I need to embody that. I see a lot of potential in her, she’s very dedicated, ” McCreery says.

Fitch has a special relationship with Lexi as she was not only on her first middle school team years ago and prior, but their friendship has grown now with her first year of Varsity coaching. 

“Something that I see in Lexi that inspires me is the fact that she is extremely determined in multiple ways, even when she’s not confident about something. I feel like she doesn’t let fear get in the way of accomplishing goals that she sets for herself and that us as coaches set for her,” Fitch begins.
 
“She is never questioning us as coaches. I feel like she puts a lot of trust into us and I know that's hard especially with me being a first year coach. The fact that she’s willing to step out of her comfort zone as a sophomore and lead the team, which I haven’t seen a lot, shows she looks at how things benefit the whole team and not just her.” 

Twin brothers say their time on the swim team has taught them valuable life lessons, such as how to juggle and prioritize multiple commitments.Swimmers learning life lessons

Twin brothers Tong Da and Tong Xin Wu share a passion for swimming and are key leaders of their team. Coach Bo Paul inspires them in more ways than one. Working hard to handle teaching with his swim schedule, he’s a prominent leader to the boys demonstrating how to balance so much on his plate and successfully achieve goals. Tong Da Wu mentions this when asked what he admires about Paul. 

“Coach Paul has taught me to be a better juggler. There are a lot of important things that people have in their life. However, we only get 24 hours to fit everything in. Coach Paul has taught me that there are things we have to give up to achieve the things we want and that made me prioritize the things that matter to me most,” Wu says. 

Brother and sidekick Tong Xin Wu have learned lessons hat stick with them even out of the water. 

“If your arms get tired, use your legs, and if your legs get tired you’re doing it right,” Tong Xin explains Paul’s words. “The basic message is to do your best.”

Paul truly sees a sparkle in the Wu twins' eyes. 

“One thing that has always stood out to me about them is that they always are the ones to come up to me after practice and ask if they can swim extra yards or do anything extra or ask me for advice on improving some part of their swim. The other thing that I’ve always noticed about them that I respect is that they really prioritize their academics,” Paul begins.

“I do appreciate that they find time in their day to come and seek me out like, in my classroom and check in on me and let me know how they’re doing and what’s going on in their day and just even like something as simple as popping in and saying ‘Coach, we’ll be at practice tonight’ reminds me that they care about and prioritize the team.”

We always admire the lessons our coaches and mentors taught us throughout our lives, but we rarely stop to think about what we taught them. Who’s to say we don’t teach them more in the grand scheme of things?