Here’s another story about former assistant coach, Jeremy Friel:
We were in Des Moines, I.a. in late December of 2014, preparing to play Drake University. I know only two people who want to be in Des Moines while most other UAlbany students are home with their families; they are Dallas Ennema (from Sheldon, I.a.), and John Puk (Waterloo, I.a.).
I wanted to go home.
I knew I wasn’t going to play, and, I missed my family.
Coach Brown had scheduled practice for late that afternoon.
We reported to the Drake University gymnasium, stretched, and got ready to begin.
Coach Brown had us run layup lines. I, fully a member of the team, at this point, for two years, was asked to sit out of the drill; I presented an odd number. I stood underneath the basket, and clapped for my teammates, as they succeeded in the very simple task of laying a basketball in a hoop.
I wasn’t pouting when Friel came over to me.
“Reecey,” he said, with what I remember to be a hint of sarcasm. “I need you to clap, c’mon!”
It wasn’t the first time in the last two years he had encouraged to embrace the role of a cheerleader. And every time prior, I put aside my, perhaps righteous feelings of contempt for the job, and cheered for my teammates, even in the simplest of tasks.
However, this day, I just didn’t feel like it.
I continued clapping with moderate enthusiasm until the drill was over.
Afterward, Friel pulled me aside, and told me that, if I couldn’t find it within myself to cheer my teammates to victory in layup lines, then, “we’ll just send you home; with all the restaurant, and hotel bills” the program had amassed on my behalf. He asked to me recall: “Who’s a major reason you’re on this team anyway?” before offering his form of spirited inspiration: “So if I tell you to do something, just ****ing do it. And be excited.”
He patted me, hard, on the back, and walked off, with a smile.
I would not be surprised to learn that this experience – being asked to cheerlead – is common among Division I walk-ons.
I can’t speak for all, but I never desired to simply be on a Division I team. I worked hard in order to play Division I basketball.
Many times, I was asked to be the “Nate Robinson” of the bench.
Make no mistake: I love my teammates, and I am always rooting for them. But, I am most comfortable expressing loud emotion sparingly.
Walk-ons are not cheerleaders. They should be engaged members of the team, whether on the court, or the bench; just as any player should.