The 2016 First National Bank of NWA Great 8 Classic is in the books and was another success. The Ozark Lady Tigers, making their third trip to the finals, got their first finals win in a thrilling 59-57 hard-fought victory over the host Rogers High Lady Mounties. I was happy for the Lady Tigers because they played just a little better than Rogers and deserved the win. But I also knew I would feel bad for Rogers if they lost and I did, because I know those seniors (five of them starters) wanted to win a tournament (on their home floor no less) they had also never won before.
High school girls basketball may never get the recognition or the following it so richly deserves and maybe the sport is ok with that. I think it has come to peace with the fact that it will usually play second fiddle to boys’ hoops, but I’m not here to debate the two with this piece. Sure, I could sit here and write about the merits of girls’ basketball and compare and argue and vent, and would probably just end up at the same spot I started. Instead, I’m going to write about something more specific and two words that stood out to me over these three days of games.
One of those words is competitiveness. I watched almost every minute of all 12 games and here’s one thing I know – those girls competed something fierce. There was Heritage senior Meredith Lakis driving to the goal with a relentless almost reckless abandon, and I think Ozark junior Cami Roy spent more time on the floor battling for loose balls than she spent upright. I loved it. And I loved their competitive spirit and the passion with which they played for their respective teams. I was witness to the smooth shooting of Webb City junior Hannah Woodcock, the overall athleticism of Rogers senior Elise Randels (Block party at the Randels’ house location – in the paint), and the talented sisterly combination at Ozark of senior Mikayla and junior Macey Putt (#Puttsisters – my favorite hashtag of the tourney).
Every team put forth an incredible amount of effort, and it was always about the team. There was never a moment when one of the girls made it about themselves. The coaches and the players were fully invested in winning and just getting better every game. They played and coached with class. I never saw a player or coach do anything that I thought was a classless move or play. There were zero technicals and those coaches are some passionate, outstanding representatives of their respective schools! Ft. Smith Southside coach Steve Brown wears a path up and down the sidelines fiercely protecting and advocating for his girls, and Camdenton coach Staci Caffey battled her vocal chords just trying to communicate throughout the tourney with a voice that was in and out.
The other word that comes to mind from this weekend is gratitude. Every day many people thanked the bank and me for being the presenting sponsor. The Great 8 Classic was born in 2012 as a collaboration between the Rogers Athletic Department and the Rogers Chamber of Commerce, particularly Allyson Twiggs Dyer. It was created to help showcase the talented girls in the area and compliment the boys holiday tournament also hosted in Rogers. They went looking for a full-time sponsor in 2013, and that’s when First National Bank of NWA entered the picture (though it was canceled in 2013 due to the weather that year).
I can’t stress enough, but the teams, the players, the coaches, the event staff are all outstanding at this event. I spoke briefly with Ozark head coach David Brewer on Friday evening after their second round win over Rogers Heritage, and he spoke glowingly of the tournament and the hospitality he and his team receive every year (Ozark has participated in every Great 8 Classic). He thanked our bank for sponsoring the tournament and mentioned that everything from the hotel stay to the organization of the tournament was “first class.” That kind of appreciative nature (and he wasn’t the only coach, official or parent to echo those remarks) makes you want to do an even better job the next year. Even though First National Bank of NWA is the presenting sponsor and plays a major part in the tournament every year, the compliments also speak volumes about the Rogers Athletic Department and particularly Athletic Director Mark Holderbaum and his staff, who help coordinate all aspects of the event.
There are many ways to define success. Wealth, prosperity, and fame are ways that many people measure it. In competitive sports, it’s usually scoring more points or runs or goals than your opponent. But sometimes in life all you need to feel successful is a little gratitude, a simple thank you. On behalf of First National Bank of NWA we were loaded up with thank you’s this weekend, and it was our sincere pleasure. I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank my fellow FNBNWA associates that volunteered their free time to come and hang out with me.
During this time of giving and receiving I choose to define the success of this tournament in thank you’s, gratitude, and overall competitive effort. So for me personally, and for our bank this past weekend, gratitude + competitiveness = success. The Ozark Lady Tigers may be the champs, but this bank and this community were also big winners, and the Great 8 Classic was a resounding success.
Kyle, his wife Rebekah, and their daughter Caroline have called NW Arkansas home since 2001. He is a front runner so you will find him cheering for the Razorbacks, OU Sooners, and OSU Cowboys at various times throughout the year depending upon who is doing better. He is an avid sports fan in general and enjoys playing golf, reading, writing and he and his family are active members of Keypoint Church. Kyle claims to like almost everyone at #FNBNWA.