DeSoto Coaches Agree: Team Sports Is Where Your Child Should Be
By Chris Van Tuyl
With more than 25 years of coaching experience in DeSoto County – all taking place at Hernando High School – Anthony Jenkins can be counted on for lots of bits of wisdom. “I just can’t emphasize enough how important it is for kids to be involved in some sort of team at their particular school,” he said. “As you know, most jobs today require you to be a team player. Everybody isn’t going to have the same skill set, but everybody can gain valuable lessons from being on a team”. Jenkins added: “Being on a team – and I stress this – builds friendships for life.”
Lewisburg High School volleyball coach Allison Burchyett is preparing to enter her 22nd year – the majority in the DeSoto County school district. She also earned the right to share quality advice when it comes to today’s youth participating in sports. “I think team sports are great, because you have to rely on teammates. You just can’t do it all yourself,” she said. “You look at accountability for down the line for the future – you’ve got to be able to rely on other people – and they’ve got to be able to trust you. I think that’s one of the keys. And, just learning that hard work pays off”.
That’s where Oak Grove Central Elementary School physical education teacher Jamie Cross can weigh in. Her team-sport days began in the fourth grade, continued with a state volleyball championship at Southaven High and ended up with playing time and a bachelor’s degree at Mississippi State University. “Team sport definitely taught me a sense of family,” she said. “Other than your immediate family, it’s like another family that you can count on – people to have your back and people to be there for you”.
In addition to coaching and teaching, Jenkins, Burchyett and Cross have also witnessed the impact of youth sports on their own respective children. Jenkins, the DeSoto County Schools’ Athletic Director, had two daughters participate in volleyball. “They were in a position where they had to deal with disappointment,” he said. “They learned to manage those emotions by being on those particular teams. We didn’t want them to run to daddy or mama, because we wanted them to be able to work through those emotions themselves. We felt like it was a valuable lesson being taught and being learned. Another thing it teaches them is how to deal with victory and defeat. Kids need to learn how to handle winning; they need to learn how to handle losing – because you’ve got to be gracious in both of them”.
Burchyett’s son Barrett excels in football. Her daughter Baylee plays volleyball, and just this past spring, was coached by Allison. “The first two years that she played, I thought it was better to just be the parent and to support,” said Burchyett. “This year was really fun. It was neat to see her latch onto certain things, be competitive and be respectful of others – and for the game itself”.
With volleyball also being Cross’s passion and her being the mother of three daughters, she’s got a better-than-average shot of passing on the love of the game to at least one of them. If not, there’s always a potential chance they’ll grow up to love softball, a sport Cross has spent coaching in the City of Southaven’s recreational league. “I feel very blessed to be able to give back, even a fraction of what I was given,” she said. “It’s just more than the practices and the games. There are going to be hard times, and you’ve got to learn to push through them. And if you give up, you’ll miss out on a lot”.
Chris Van Tuyl is a DeSoto County resident and former newspaper journalist who enjoys the company of his wife and pets, and watching sports.