Monthly Archives: October 2009

First-year football player finds success on the field

The referee’s whistle shrills from down on the field to up in the stands, where a smattering of fans are sitting, mostly parents. It’s definitely hot cocoa, sweatshirt and blanket weather.

“Longhorns are red hot *clap clap*

Longhorns are red hot *clap clap*

Longhorns are R-E-D Red, H-O-T Hot, Red Hot, Red Hot . . .”

The cheerleaders’ chant fades as their shivering takes over and they run to put their heavy jackets back on over their uniforms.

The cloud-streaked sky begins to turn dark and the lights on the field flicker on as the fourth quarter clock begins to tick down. The swift breeze has changed directions now, coming up from the south and swirling around through the wooden stands where the fans have settled back into their seats after stretching.

As the play begins, helmets smack together at the line of scrimmage, and bodies, both tiny and large, are shoved to the left and to the right. The defense is not enough, though, for the home team DeKalb Tigers; forty-five seconds into the final quarter, the South Nodaway junior high football team scores another touchdown against them, putting the Longhorns up 18-6.

On the ensuing kick-off, No. 33 gets a good, solid tackle on the ball carrier.

“Way to go, Scout,” someone yells from the Longhorn section of fans.

Several more minutes pass, and as the clock begins to wind down toward the end of the game, No. 33 still isn’t giving up, even though it looks as though the Maroon and Black have it in the bag.

“Nice work, Scout,” Longhorn Head Coach Aaron Murphy hollers from the sideline. “Keep it up!”

Two plays later, she gets another tackle.

Yes, she.

She is Scout Miller, the 13-year-old eighth grader who is playing in her first year of football for the eight-man junior high team.

After the last tackle, a teammate slaps her shoulder pads in encouragement and her maroon jersey, offset by the black in her helmet, pants, socks and cleats, bobs up and down.

Still playing strong, she lines up in the defensive tackle position, pushes past her opponent on the line and heads straight for the running back carrying the ball. Like a rag doll, she throws him to the ground behind the line of scrimmage, a tackle for a loss of yards.

 

Taking her own path

On the outside, Scout seems like a typical teenager. The bright-eyed, perpetually-smiling red head has what South Nodaway Elementary Principal Darbi Bauman calls an infectious personality, one who loves to joke around and appreciates a good practical joke.

She is active at school with basketball, track, FCA and FBLA and she enjoys watching TV, especially America’s Best Dance Crew on MTV, reading, art and going fishing. She wants to go to Northwest after she graduates high school and eventually become a teacher, like her favorite, Mrs. Bauman.

And while she seems pretty conventional on the outside, it comes as no surprise to the people who know her, that Scout made an unconventional decision when she chose to play football.

“Scout is the type of student that walks her own path,” Bauman said. “She is not afraid to think outside of the box and that is one quality that makes her so special.”

Most people have been supportive of her decision, including her friends and family, although she said, “my sister, Shea, thought I’d only last a week.”

She obviously proved her sister wrong. And probably a few others along the way.

 

Learning and progressing

Scout is the daughter of Glenn and Cindy Miller, Barnard, and Annie Thogerson, Arizona, and has seven siblings, mostly older and none who play football. But that didn’t stop her from pursuing her passion.

“I just love football. I wanted to play last year, but my dad was scared I would get hurt,” she said. So when it was time to sign up this year, Scout persisted and was allowed to play.

“I knew the general idea of the game from playing with friends and watching the high school team play,” she said, but also confessed she had a lot to learn about positions and team plays.

A quick learner, Scout’s lack of experience and knowledge didn’t hinder her.

“Scout constantly progressed throughout the season,” Murphy said. “Whenever I would give instruction, she seemed to retain the information quickly and was able to put it into action. The biggest progress she made was on her tackling.”

She wasn’t just improving, she was enjoying it, too, and her practice was paying off. During that game against DeKalb, the final one of the season, Scout recorded six tackles, two of which resulted in a loss of yardage.

Her hard work started long before the season began, though, during summer weightlifting.

“During our summer workouts, Scout worked extremely hard, which I believe pushed the boys to try harder,” Murphy said. “She did anything asked of her to the best of her ability.”

 

Amazing asset

While being a girl on a boys football team may present itself with some awkward situations, her coaches said the relationships she had with her teammates were very normal.

“Her teammates never hesitated to accept her as a teammate; she was a great contributor and an amazing asset to our team,” Murphy said, who has known Scout and her family for five years. “She is a motivator to the rest of the team, always encouraging and pushing them to do their best.”

As she was supporting her teammates, those around her at school were cheering her on just the same.

“I have never seen or heard any negative comments from anyone about her playing football,” Nick Wray, assistant coach and school counselor, said. “People just want her to play well. They have really supported her decision and rooted for her throughout the season.”

The loudest cheers came on the first game of the year, a 28-8 win against West Nodaway, on a play Scout calls her favorite of the whole season.

“I made a touchdown,” she said. “We were 10 yards away from the goal line and I ran through the four hole and scored.”

The touchdown was one of the best moments of the season, Wray said.

“She just ran into the pile of West Nodaway defenders and carried three of them into the end zone for a touchdown,” he said. “It was one of those moments that gives you goose bumps.”

The season may have been a disappointment for some, with a 2-3 record. But even with the losses, Scout said it was a great experience for her.

“As long as we do our best, it doesn’t matter,” she said.

And as for next year, she is unsure if she will play again. “I want to, but I don’t know,” she said hesitantly, knowing her opponents will most likely be a lot bigger than her.

“It was a true pleasure to have her on the team this year,” Murphy said. “And it was inspiring to see her perform on the field and receive so much success.”

 

The final seconds

As the horn blared, sounding the end of that game against DeKalb, the South Nodaway fans once again rose to their feet, clapped their hands and cheered for their Longhorns.

In perhaps the last game of her short career, Scout Miller, with her teammates by her side, ran off the field smiling and laughing.

For the 13-year-old, it doesn’t get much better than playing the game she so passionately loves.

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Profile of Dr. Vince Bates: brief, stolen moments of attention

Two-year-old Audrey Bates runs across the dining room floor, as fast as her chubby little legs can carry her. As she reaches her daddy’s feet, she jumps up and into his lap, catching him a little off guard.

“Da!” she squeals, shoving a tiny, plastic toy into his long and tired face. “Da!” she yells louder. “Da Da!” The toy is just a means to an end for the adept toddler.

Her father, Dr. Vince Bates, assistant professor of music at Northwest Missouri State University, looks directly into her big, dark eyes, brushes her long bangs out of her face and smiles.

Success. His attention, however brief, was hers.

Content, she scoots down off his lap and runs out of the room.

*****

Like many of his fellow professors, Bates is a busy man. Since joining the staff at Northwest in 2006, he has taught elementary and middle school general music methods, brass methods, French horn, guitar, music appreciation and even freshman seminar. He has presented at various conferences across the country and done research on a variety of topics.

But unlike most of his colleagues, his time is also consumed as the lay minister at his church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has no full-time professional clergy at the congregational level.

Bates is what is called a branch president, as he presides over the “branch” or congregation of people that are in Nodaway and Atchison counties. The call was extended to him from a stake president, who oversees several congregations in the area.

He has been serving in the position for a year and a half now, a time period that he half-jokingly calls “too long” to a position he did not seek.

“No, this is not something I wanted to do, but we promise to serve where we’re asked to serve,” Bates said. “And I do believe it’s an act of service.”

With the calling, he oversees the work of the members, or Mormons as they are more commonly known, who have responsibilities and who take turns serving in various capacities like Sunday School teacher or youth advisor.

*****

Audrey runs back into the room, jabbering more gibberish about the baby she’s now holding in her hand. She jumps up again into her father’s lap and holds the half-dressed doll for him to see. “Baby, Da Da, baby,” she screeches.

Once more, he affectionately smiles at her. “Yay, baby!” she yells. “Yay!” She’s slides back down, satisfied, off to find her older siblings, Landon (10), William (seven) and Sophie (five).

Born to faithful, hard-working parents, Bates grew up in rural Nevada and Utah, smack dab in the middle of nine children. He learned the value of hard work from living on the farm and a love of music in his humble yet happy home.

“We had a lot of music and we all learned to play the piano to various degrees,” Bates said. “We also used to play together as a family, with dad on accordion, mom on guitar and the rest of us on various band instruments or guitar.

“I was pretty young when I knew I wanted to be a teacher or a musician,” he continued. Watching “The Sound of Music” and listening to his collection of the Statler Brothers, he remembers he had “lots of interest” in the wide variety of music he had experienced as a child.

That exposure included the accordion his father played, an instrument that was taught to him and which he eventually inherited.

“He demonstrated some things for me a few times. Then one day, he was going to show me how to play something and he couldn’t do it. His fingers had gotten so big and stiff from work that he couldn’t push the buttons easily,” Bates said. “He put it down and I don’t ever remember his playing again.”

Bates graduated in 1985 from West Desert High School, in rural western Utah, in a class of two, him and his cousin. He went on to serve a mission for his church from 1986 to 1988 in Denmark to share, he said, what his church believes and where he learned valuable principles that have helped him in the classroom and with the congregation.

“Patience was developed to an extent, although growing up on a farm and working long hours also developed that,” he said. “I think that mainly I learned more about talking to people, being more outgoing and less shy.”

After returning home from Denmark, he continued school and received a bachelor’s degree in music education in 1992 from Brigham Young University and a master’s in music in 1996, also from BYU. Two years later, he married his wife, Kristin, and they welcomed their first child, Landon, the following year.

Prior to Northwest, he taught K-12 music for a total of 12 years in Eureka, Utah. In the middle of his tenure there, he and his family moved to Tucson to work toward a doctorate in music education from the University of Arizona. They lived there from August 1999 to May 2001 and then returned to Utah, where he resumed teaching in Eureka. During his time there, he was able to pass along the knowledge his father gave him of the accordion to one of his students.

Also while in Eureka, the Bates family welcomed two more children, William in 2001 and Sophie in 2004. Audrey was born in 2007, after they had moved to Maryville.

In just the short time he has been at Northwest, Bates has garnered the respect of his colleagues, including Dr. William Richardson, associate professor of music.

“Dr. Bates is an excellent teacher,” Richardson said. “He is always available for Northwest students and graduates who come to him for advice. In the classroom, he is very personable and makes learning fun.”

Bates believes teaching should be student centered, meaning that it should promote student happiness and well being. And it requires physical action.

“It is possible to enjoy something and learn something at the same time. Learning does not have to be stressful to be rigorous,” he said. “Applying principles seems to be valuable to my students. I try to find and think of activities that are engaging and meaningful.”

In addition to his success in the classroom, Richardson said Bates is also well known nationally and internationally as a critical theorist who enjoys questioning established ways of teaching music in public schools.

“This often leads to some amazing outside the box thinking,” Richardson said. “But his research with issues of gender, race and social class in music education is also important and should be heard.”

The more research Bates does, the more he can see the prevalence of these and other forms of discrimination, which he discusses in his music education methods and American popular music classes.

“Class is especially important to me as someone who grew up poor,” he said. “And, whereas it’s not politically correct anymore to be overtly racist or sexist, people still get away with referring to ‘rednecks’ or ‘poor white trash’ and it is still common for people to think that the poor are poor because of things like lower intelligence or laziness.”

In addition to his success in the classroom and his passion for research and theory, Richardson has also noticed Bates’ commitment to his family and his church responsibilities.

“Vince is a very pleasant colleague and friend,” he said. “He and his wife, Kristin, have four wonderful children and are very involved in church activities.”

*****

Sophie begins to sing in the next room, but her song is soon interrupted by her sister’s crying. She tries to get Audrey to color with her. But it’s not the attention Audrey wants.

So Sophie goes back to her singing and coloring. And Audrey goes back to her crying and runs back into the dining room to her father, who swoops her up into his strong but gentle arms.

“Da Da,” she says, as he looks down at her patiently, lovingly. He strokes her light-colored hair and gently bounces her up and down on his knee. Her crying begins to fade into whimpering and continues to diminish until she’s almost completely silent.

Bates is, he said, like his father: quiet.

“He’s quiet and thoughtful,” Dr. Tom Smith, professor of English education at Northwest, said. “When he’s quiet, it’s because he’s listening and thinking.”

Smith serves with Bates at church as his counselor. The two have known each other for a couple of years and spend quite a bit of time together, not just at church, but also with work. They are currently collaborating for a presentation at an education conference in October.

In those two years working together, Smith has seen the compassion Bates has for others, which goes beyond just the physical and temporal needs of the congregation.

“I think being branch president has changed him a lot,” Smith said. “I see him learning to deal with people differently. He’s really concerned about them and making sure they feel welcome and appreciated. He has a vision for the branch and that vision is that everyone is important and everyone matters.”

*****

With several black olives in one hand and her doll in the other, Audrey comes scurrying back and stands at the feet of her father, looking squarely up at him, waiting.

“Baby!” she demands. It’s followed by more unintelligible squeals, commanding more attention from her father.

“The baby won’t eat those olives,” he says matter-of-fact like, keeping a straight face. “They’re dolls. And dolls don’t eat them.”

His joking gets no reaction from Audrey. And the wry look he’s giving her reluctantly turns to a crescent-moon smile and finally to a wide, toothy half-moon grin. As he laughs, she pops one of the olives into her mouth and hurries out of the room again.

Humor is a big part of who he is, although like Audrey, a lot of people don’t always get it.

“He’s actually really funny but you don’t always see it,” Smith said. “It’s a very dry sense of humor.”

Bates said he learned it growing up from his father and grandfather.

“It seems to be pretty common with country folk generally to say something that is really a joke and keep a straight face so that people wonder if you are kidding or not,” he said. “My dad and grandpa were both very good at this.”

It’s sometimes hard, though, to bring that humor to his church calling because it carries with it a good amount of stress and worry. Bates, whose salt and pepper hair has probably gotten a little more salty in the past couple of years, said knowing all about people’s personal problems is difficult for him.

“It’s hard to let it all go,” he said.

And on top of that, it also takes up a significant portion of his free time, time away from his family.

“Family is really important and I feel bad when I don’t spend time with them,” Bates said. “It’s hard to serve the needs of the people in the branch and still have time at home.”

But he also sees his service as a blessing and enjoys helping people with their welfare needs.

“I think we’ve gotten to know a lot more people,” he said. “You get to see them grow and progress. It’s nice to help them with their financial needs – their basic needs – and have the resources to help. And it’s given us more perspective.”

His wife, Kristin, agrees there are blessings that come with it and she’s grateful for the time they have to learn and grow through this experience.

“It’s helped us to all have more focus on helping others…and it makes us more appreciative of the blessings we have,” she said. “The calling doesn’t last forever, and when he’s released, I know he wants to feel that he did all he could do and worked hard at it.”

*****

Audrey’s made her way back into the dining room, wearing part of the dinner Kristin is making on her face.

First, she asks: “Me?”

Nothing. She presses harder. “Me! Me!”

Still nothing, so she smiles. “Me, Da Da, Me.”

He smiles, too, reaches down and picks her up.

With the busy schedule he carries as professor and branch president – and as husband and father – those brief, stolen moments of his attention are cherished.

And for Audrey, who has now traded in the doll for the earlier plastic toy, she’s happy just the same. She’s got her Da.