The perfect fit – Falcon senior helps bring team together
Prior to the season, David Thomas, head coach of the Forest Lake Christian boys basketball team, knew that to have a successful year, his players needed to come together as a team.
That included not only coming together in regard to the fundamentals of the game and their actual play on the court, but also the emotional aspect of the game like supporting each other and behaving respectfully to officials and teammates.
With these goals in mind, having Phil Sparling step up as the floor leader for the Falcons was a perfect fit.
For Sparling, basketball is not an individual game – it’s a game where players work together to achieve one common goal: winning.
Before the first whistle was blown and the first shot was fired, Sparling told his teammates, with whom he had played with since seventh grade, to set their expectations high for the season.
“My dream has always been to play at Arco Arena and I told the guys that if we played together as a team and played team ball, then we had a chance of getting there,” said Sparling, who is averaging 4.5 points, 2.9 assists and 2.0 rebounds per game.
Halfway through the season, Sparling is holding up his end of the bargain by playing the best team ball he knows how to play. It’s a style in which he would rather see a teammate sink an opener jumper than score one of his own. He would rather pat a teammate on the back after spotting frustration on his face and tell him, “Keep shooting, you’ll hit it next time.”
“He works hard to be a leader and there’s no substitute for that,” Thomas said. “He desires to do well and values assists as much as he values scoring on his own. He is an integral part of the team and it doesn’t always show up in the point total, but little things do count.”
Sparling realizes how important a point guard is to a team and values that role. However, as much as he enjoys his role as a floor leader, he will admit that he would take on whatever role Thomas offered – even sitting on the bench – if it would make the team better.
Knowing that he would be spending time at the point guard position this year, Sparling focused during the summer on improving his ballhandling and court vision.
“Phil is probably the hardest worker I have in practice,” Thomas said. “He constantly tries to pump up his teammates. He also takes constructive criticism well and then continues to work hard.”
Sparling, who stands 6-foot-1, hopes to continue playing basketball somewhere next year, but is still in the process of deciding if that’s a possibility and, if so, where he might play.
“I just love competing in basketball everyday,” Sparling said. “God gave me some talent that I can use to help other people play, as well.”
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