Braves hope for improvement through their defeats

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By Jeff Appelblatt

As a season moves along and the losses pile up, a coach eventually hits a point when he realizes his team just won’t be a contender. No one wants to admit such a thing, but sometimes it’s just reality.

Rick Garretson, the head boys’ basketball coach at Manalapan High School, has finally accepted it’s time to look toward next season. It’s too late this year for the Braves (2-15) to hit a hot streak that could make a difference in the standings. However, he still wants his team to play its best.

“You come to work every day to get better,” the coach said before Manalapan lost to Neptune High School for the second time this season. “We’re not looking at wins and losses. We’re looking at how we perform. And are we getting better each day in practice? In games?”

Manalapan entered the game with Neptune Feb. 2, with nine consecutive losses.

“Nobody likes losing,” Garretson said. “It’s humbling. But also it defines what type of man you are. If you could wake up every day and work harder, it says a lot about your character.”

This is unfamiliar territory for the coach.

“I’ve never had a season like this in my 23 years,” the physical education teacher said. “It’s easy to be fired up when you’re winning every game. It’s tougher when you don’t get the results you want.”

Manalapan’s coach just hopes his seniors see it the same way he does, and that they’re by his side, aiming to make those who will be playing for the team again next year better.

“All the seniors are great kids. They’re all good in the classroom. They’re good leaders. You hope they’re being good role models and setting good examples,” Garretson said. “[And] you have younger players that are developing. That’s what I’m hoping — I’m hoping that some of these younger guys are developing, and it will only be better things for the future.”

Garretson doesn’t think it’s too difficult for any athlete to work alongside his teammates to improve daily, no matter the circumstance.

“It’s easy to be a team player,” the coach said. “And if you’re a true man and you act like a man, you get up the next day, you get back to work and you try as hard as you can. You try to get a little better each day.”

Garretson just hopes that his young guys don’t give up on their dreams of playing basketball in the future now that it has been demonstrated to them this year that no game is ever a guaranteed victory.

“Part of sports is not everybody wins,” the coach said. “Part of sports is learning how to deal with adversity and overcoming it.”

Garretson would love to see the win column again before the season comes to a close. The Braves tried for a win Feb. 7 when they hosted Howell High School (5-13), and they’ll try again Feb. 10 when they go to Freehold Township High School at 6 p.m. to face the Patriots (18-1).