CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- You probably have never heard of St Albans tennis player Zach Driggs. Why should you?He didn't make any all-state teams, play in the state tournament or win a state championship. In fact, the Red Dragons struggled this past spring to a 3-10 record. Driggs, the No. 1 one singles player on the team, also struggled to win, posting a 1-12 individual record.However, if you look closer, you will see that Driggs taught us all a lesson that we have forgotten. It's a lesson about what high school athletics is supposed to be all about.You see, things have gotten a little out of whack in high school athletics. This is an era now where athletes jump from place to place and school to school. Athletes want to go where they think they can win a state championship. Parents are also overly involved. Now we have scholarship signing ceremonies for athletes going to non-scholarship schools and for walk-ons who really have no scholarship to sign. It does make, though, for a self-serving post on Facebook. That is what makes the story of Zach Driggs refreshing. St. Albans is not very high on the tennis food chain. Driggs wasn't either. He played two years at No. 3 doubles, then one year at No. 4 singles and this year he was the Red Dragons No. 1 singles player. He got a late start playing competitive tennis, but to progress from No. 3 doubles to the top singles player on his team, he had to work hard and improve his game.His coach, Richard Tench, had this to say about Driggs:
"Zach really is an outstanding player. He loves to play and he works hard. He had to play for us against all of the top players in the state. If he was in a different part of the state, he would have had a good record. He was just stuck in the toughest area of the state."In an era when athletes often look for the easy road to victory and headlines in the paper, Driggs took one for the team. He represented the Red Dragons against the area gauntlet of Hunter Tubert of Huntington, Alex Clay of Hurricane, Zach Hatfield of Logan, Alex Beam of Cabell Midland and others. He could have asked to drop down to play a lower position and get some wins, but he didn't. He stayed at No. 1 singles and competed. ."I wasn't good enough to win against the top players, but I still loved competing against them," said Driggs. "I learned that losing matches does not take away from the fun of competing against great players and playing a sport that you love to play. All season long, I enjoyed the competition and the sport."Perseverance against adversity, competition, not being afraid to lose, and sportsmanship are just many of the lessons we can learn from Driggs.Oh, there is one more thing about him. After graduation, when many seniors headed for a senior trip on the beach, Driggs and some of his friends went on a mission trip to Haiti. The trip impacted him so much that he hopes to go back, possibly even permanently.Driggs did not win many tennis matches this spring, but does it really matter? He loves the sport, plans to keep playing and will no doubt keep improving. He has a sport for life.
More importantly, he will no doubt be a good and considerate roommate to whomever he rooms with at WVU this fall. I am guessing he will also someday be a good husband and a good father. Isn't all of that more important than winning a state championship?He has learned the life lessons that we all used to learn from competing in high school athletics. Thank goodness for coaches like Tench, and athletes like Driggs, who remind us of them every now and then. Reach Frank Giardina at firstname.lastname@example.org.