Tabor College hasn?t always been at or near the top in basketball, but it must seem that way to fans in the KCAC.
What the men?s and women?s teams accomplished this year may not happen again in my lifetime. The two teams were a combined 39-1 to finish first in the KCAC, and both teams won their conference tournament.
Neither team snuck up on anyone either, as both were preseason favorites.
?We clearly understood that we had the talent to win the conference, but a lot of work and improvement was going to be necessary to reach that destination,? said women?s coach Shawn Reed.
Men?s coach Micah Ratzlaff said: ?We just tried to embrace the ranking in two ways. The first being that this is just a preseason vote and nobody has played a game yet, so we haven?t earned anything.
?The second being that this puts a target on our back so we cannot afford to take days off. We must come to work and we must get better each day. It also helps that we were picked first last year and finished first, so I believe we expected the same as everyone else.?
Reed attributes the women?s success to multiple factors.
?We are thankful to God for the success we have had during the past several years,? he said. ?One of the biggest blessings is that we have great players that are great people. Our team chemistry is amazing and has been for the past three years.?
Reed also credits his assistant coaches, support staff and ?an amazing administration that supports our efforts as a program, and the community and families. Our foster parent program has been instrumental in connecting our players with the community.?
According to Ratzlaff, the team?s winning streak wasn?t a burden.
?We view winning as a good job, positive thing instead of a hope we don?t screw up anything,? he said.
Basketball is a long season and the success isn?t fully appreciated until the last game is played.
?I usually enjoy it when it is all done, which is probably sad, but there is too much work going on to pause and really soak it all in,? Reed said. ?Coaches are weird that way, I guess.?
Reed admires the men?s team for going unbeaten, because there?s more parity for the men.
?What the Tabor men did this year is truly amazing, especially with (a) true round-robin 20-game schedule,? he said.
?I?m extremely proud to coach a team with players who drop their egos and show up every day to work hard, get better and attack whatever is ahead,? Ratzlaff said. ?I?m proud to coach players that cheer for each other and play for each other.?
Reed was pleased with more than just the success on the court.
?I am proud that our team GPA (all players) was 3.42 following the first semester,? he said. ?I am proud of the maturity and growth I have seen in our team spiritually and emotionally.?
Ratzlaff said, ?Winning becomes contagious in my mind as long as you stay humble, continue to work hard or even harder each day and show up to practice with a hungry positive attitude.?
It matters how players respond when things aren?t going their way.
?Do not put your head down and quit, or do you find a way to fix it and get passed it,? Ratzlaff said. ?We don?t dwell on our mistakes. We find productive ways to move on.?
Said Reed: ?I believe winning is contagious and it is tied to confidence. When confidence soars, people and teams can accomplish amazing feats.
?This group of young ladies is special,? he added. ?There are not many successful teams that don?t have a single player averaging double-digits. Some players on this team that have started for us in the past are now in reserve roles and their minutes have diminished, yet no one complains.
In today?s society where individual accomplishment is celebrated, it?s the team that is truly the focus for this group.?
Reed added: ?I am proud that we are able to accomplish success in almost a counter-cultural manner. I think it says a lot about our players and a lot about what is possible when no one cares who gets the credit.?
Hillsboro resident Joe Klein?sasser is director of news and media relations at Wichita State University.