Smithton girl’s junior high basketball coach Sara Lewis-Page, in her fourth game as a coach, faced conference rival Sacred Heart at home Thursday, Jan. 19.
Before the first quarter ended, Sara’s father, Dan Page, stood behind the Smithton bench and offered passing advice. Dan attends most of Sara’s games. Not just for support but, as the boy’s junior high basketball coach, his team will take the court within the hour.
The Lady Tigers attacked with a pass-happy offense, on-ball pressure and a knack for making free-throws – all of which Sara learned on a farm five miles south of town.
“Growing up on a farm, part of our summer chores was to shoot free throws,” Sara said.
Dan grew up on that same farm, where he currently resides, and said basketball was introduced at a young age.
“My parents brought me to basketball games when I was in elementary school,” Dan said. “I fell in love with watching the guys play, and I decided I wanted to do this. So, my dad put a hoop up on the barn … I wanted to be a basketball player. It’s been a part of my life as long as I remember.”
A self-described gym rat, Dan graduated from Smithton High School in 1970 and walked on at Central Methodist. When the Eagles were starting its first-ever cross-country program, his basketball coach suggested he try out for the inaugural team.
Thus began a career in education, coaching and officiating. He taught and coached at Stover, Sturgeon and State Fair Community College before a return to Smithton.
Dan, “hung up his whistle” and retired from refereeing after 29 years last season, is also an adjunct at SFCC, teaching health science. He said he’s still living a gym rat’s dream.
“I’m soon going to be 65, and I have the keys to two gymnasiums,” Dan said, referencing the Fred E. Davis Multipurpose Center and Smithton High School.
Sara is an artist, writer, substitute teacher at Smithton, and an instructor for a weekly class at Unity Temple in Kansas City. She said there was opportunity for volleyball – or any other sport – to be her favorite, and that her dad preached physical activity and competitive spirit.
“It wasn’t so much that he was basketball-obsessed, but just that it was a good chance to have some fun and get some exercise,” Sara said.
So, why did she choose basketball?
“Everybody is engaged,” Sara said. “There’s a possibility that everybody matters and counts 100 times in a minute. You can learn to play with people.”
Competition and exercise are basic, shared principles of basketball. Dan and Sara, however, are teaching separate lessons with their respective teams.
Dan said he grew up listening to Bobby Knight clinics, running a four-corners offense to stall, and disliking the shot clock. He’s teaching discipline.
“Defense is important,” Dan said. “We’re trying to get that concept of defense is as important as offense. When I see a kid sprint back on defense, I’m happy with that.”
Girls, sometimes literally, play by different rules. Sara said a tough, short and stern approach is unnecessary, and resonates harshly with junior high girls.
“With the girls, I’m almost doing empowerment coaching at the same time,” Sara said. “In practice, I feel like that’s all I’m saying: ‘Take that shot! Go up strong!’ … If my girls said they grew in confidence this season, that would be the best.”
Sara’s brother, Brad, scored more than 2,000 points and held the Smithton boy’s career scoring record for a time. She said she grew up wanting to impress her father, and is glad to share “this coaching thing” with Dan.
“He’s spent a lifetime around education and athletics, and it is fun at this state to get a front-row seat to watch him in action, doing what he loves,” Sara said.
For the Pages, as players and coaches, a lifetime in the gym – a lifetime of conference rivals, weeknight practices and post-game handshakes – produced to an array of valuable life lessons.
“If athletics is going to be an educational process, that’s one of the things we have to teach kids,” Dan said. “If there referee doesn’t make the call, the coach doesn’t put you in, whatever happens that doesn’t go your way, part of maturing and growing is dealing with that in an emotionally-controlled way.
“I haven’t broken a chair in years.”
Alex Agueros can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @abagueros2