For an aging generation of athletes, quitting has never been an option. The thought of bailing out in the face of adversity before the end of a season would have meant letting yourself and, more importantly, your teammates down.
But in the culture that permeates all levels of sports today, times have clearly changed.
That fact has never been more evident than on the local high school football scene this fall, where several members of the Healdsburg High School varsity team voted in September to cancel their season after just three games, including two blowout losses.
Last week, a group of Analy senior football players, including some of the team’s top athletes, quit abruptly after losing successive games to Ukiah (32-0) and Rancho Cotate (52-0). Their surprise departure left the team seriously undermanned for the season finale against state-ranked Cardinal Newman on Oct. 26, which the Tigers lost 48-6.
Although the reasons for their decision are not clear, the implications of their actions sent shockwaves through the Analy campus, along with every coach that has ever fielded a team.
“I’ll tell you one thing, my old man would have never let me quit,” former Analy coach, teacher and Athletic Director Chip Castleberry said this week. “I think this incident had to do with the team not winning. Life isn’t always about winning championships. In fact, I believe that losing made me a much better player and coach in the long run.”
The Tigers have been among the top football programs in the North Coast Section for the past decade, capturing six straight Sonoma County League championships before radical league realignment placed them in the ultra tough North Bay League Oak Division this season. Analy struggled to a 1-4 league record under second-year head coach James Foster, finishing the season with an overall mark of 3-7.
“This season was quite the roller coaster,” Foster reflected. “I can’t say that I’m happy with the result, but I’m proud of our players who finished out the season, even when it got rough.”
Castleberry, an iconic figure to generations of Analy athletes through the years, addressed the team for the first time this year after Friday’s game at Cardinal Newman.
“I just told the kids that I was really proud of them and very disappointed in the players that quit,” he said. “Then I told them something I’ve always said: ‘It’s a great day to be a Tiger.’”
Analy school officials have declined comment on the situation until they have a chance to meet with the football players involved.