May 21st, 2019

 earl watt color mugBy EARL WATT

• Leader & Times

In his four years of coaching at Liberal High School, Lady Redskin coach Carter Kruger has not had a losing season.

He went 11-10 his first year, 17-4 his second, 23-2 his third, and he currently has the Lady Redskins at 20-0 to start the post season.

That’s 71-16.

Carter won’t take credit for this.

Instead, he deflects it to his players, his assistants and to the parents who spent countless hours coaching traveling teams.

“I credit our kids and our coaches and all the other support we’ve had,” he said. “It’s a great place to coach and a great place to play.”

True, for a program to be successful today requires an early start, and not early as far as earlier this year.

Many of these girls have been playing basketball since they were third graders, maybe even before, investing in the possibility of putting together the type of opportunity they now have.

When Liberal hosted Great Bend last week, a parent was giving Lady Panther coach Carrie Minton a hard time because they have had a disappointing season.

She is a good coach, but she can only do the best with what she has.

This sounds like I’m making Coach Kruger’s point, that a lot of other people have helped the Lady Redskins get to 20-0.

But all of the outside work isn’t enough by itself to accomplish what has happened so far this year.

Kruger didn’t let these girls think they were good enough at the beginning of the season to get to 20-0.

He also didn’t take his team to a cushy summer camp. He had them face some of the best teams in the Midwest.

He forced them to be better than they thought they could be.

Every young person needs someone in their life to push them beyond what they think they can do.

For me, it was ‘That’ Liberal Band Director Richard Honish who required excellence from us in every performance. That’s why we always earned Division I ratings, that’s why we went to march in Florida in 1987 and London in 1989. We performed a new show every home game and marched at all away games.

Anything less of perfection was unacceptable.

I never thought I could learn new music and new steps every home game when I was a freshmen, but by my junior year I knew it was possible.

That’s what Kruger brings to his players. Higher expectations than they ever thought possible.

It’s why with a 20-point lead when he sees an easy basket for an opponent that he will make a substitution and have a conversation. It’s why he won’t allow a subpar effort at practice.

Kruger is giving everything he has to take each player to a new level. He is tough when it is needed, something that can be hard for girls coaches. I never mastered it. But he is also able to offer a hug, to make a joke and to earn the respect of his players.

Kruger is perhaps the only coach that could have made these players even better.

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