Bigger than the game
BY MIKE WARREN
MARSHFIELD – Before the Marshfield Tigers and St. Croix Central girls basketball teams squared off Dec. 17 at Marshfield High School, they teamed up to donate fleece tie blankets to pediatric patients at the Marshfield Medical Center.
“Team building is kind of like your foundation,” said Marshfield Head Coach Taylor Varsho, after the donation was made. “If your team gets along, if your team’s in it for one common goal, that’s how you build, and you can’t build upwards if you don’t have that foundation. So, the girls that came in and did the tie blankets on a Sunday afternoon just goes to show the commitment level,” Varsho added. “They want to be around each other. They want to build that culture here. So, what a great opportunity for us to give back to the community, to give back to people in need, and to have another team wanting to do that with us.”
The St. Croix Central Panthers aren’t just any other team. Their head coach has a history with Taylor and the Varsho family.
“Taylor and I have been friends for quite a while, and we just stayed in contact, and we have a lot of similar basketball philosophies, as well as ‘What the Game is About’ philosophies, and it’s about things way bigger than the game of basketball,” said Panthers Head Coach Holly Spoo. “So, we’ve just kind of been in contact about wanting to get something together, so we set up the game, and then we wanted to do something together as a team that’s more than basketball,” Spoo added.
Ahead of her team’s visit, Spoo and her wife Kelly McNamara reached out to the Marshfield Medical Center about possible volunteer or service opportunities, and that’s when the tie blanket idea came up.
“When Holly and Taylor talked about setting this up, it was about more than basketball,” McNamara said. “One of the things that we’re really trying to instill in the program and in these young women is that basketball is one component of it, but the life skills, the communication skills, the team building, the ability to help somebody out when they need help is really what we want them to get out of their high school basketball career experience, and being able to give back to a community that we’re coming to visit is part of that,” added McNamara. “The tie blankets, the kids love to make them. They can talk, and they can socialize. It doesn’t require a ton of thinking, but it also is something that comes together fairly easy and it’s a pretty cool product to have at the end of the day. They’ll give tie blankets to each other as gifts, so being able to make them and then give them to the pediatric unit here in Marshfield was just something that…this isn’t just a trip to come play basketball. It’s to get to know other kids. It’s to give something back to the community that we’re visiting. That was super important to the program.”
Each team donated 15 blankets, after having breakfast together as a group at Melody Gardens.
“Holly and I go back to when I played in high school,” Varsho recalls. “She kind of helped me with the whole recruiting process and getting my name out there, being from central Wisconsin, never playing on a travel AAU team. I really took pride in being a three-sport athlete here at the high school, and Holly helped me with that recruiting process. It’s all about connections when you wanna go play at the next level. Holly has a ton of knowledge in the game. She is a phenomenal coach and really building the program in St. Croix. So, she asked me last year, ‘Hey, would you wanna play?’ I said, ‘Absolutely. Why not have a team-building opportunity?’ It’s just a great community connection to building two teams. And this is bigger than the game of basketball – donating tie blankets, which is something small, but to people that are in need is a huge thing. So, ‘Bigger than the game’ is the quote for the day.”
Taylor knew of Spoo through her college basketball career at UW-Oshkosh – the same school her father, Gary Varsho, played his college baseball.
By the way, the Tigers won the game, 61-41, to start the season 8-0. Dani Minsaas led Marshfield with 26 points. Ayana Bousum added 16.