The people and students of Wisconsin pride themselves as hard-working individuals who are down to earth and take pride in what they do.No one exemplifies the Wisconsin work ethic more than men’s basketball head coach Bo Ryan.Ryan, one of the winningest coaches currently leading a college program, remains as one of the most popular and respected coaches in college basketball. The reason he has the support of so many fans is because they can relate to both the way Ryan was brought up in Chester, Penn., and the way his team plays.Ryan’s coaching style demands solid fundamentals from his team. Instead of opting for a showy offense, he installed the swing, which spreads the ball around and relies on everyone to play well and play every position.The necessity for sound fundamentals and a lack of a showy offense, in my opinion, connects well with the people of the state. Wisconsinites understand and appreciate hard-working players and their determination for success, which matches the demeanor of Ryan and his players; they can relate well with those who feel the same way about their work, no matter the occupation.Unlike many coaches, Ryan does not see himself above the rest. Sure, he does have the second-highest winning percentage of any active NCAA coach with more than 500 wins.But he doesn’t act like it.He still holds practices that are open to the media and answers questions honestly, almost to a fault. His ability to connect with people while not seeming like he is above anyone else gives him a connection to both the students and fans.The best example of Ryan’s ability to make a connection with fans — especially with the student body — was when he made a video of himself doing the “Soulja Boy” dance last year. Not showing any reluctance to show a sense of humor made Ryan as likable as ever.Showing a sense of humor and opening up to the media has allowed fans to get an insight into their team’s head coach many others do not get. When Bo showed the nation how to do the “Hambone,” it showed his lighter side and, more importantly, showed he grew up just like many people in Wisconsin did.Ryan’s connection with people outside of athletics also attracts respect. I have had friends who have met Bo once or twice years before, and he has still remembered their name and asks them how their family is doing. The connection he is able to make with fans, especially on a personal basis, makes him seem like just an average guy who happens to coach a basketball team.Most importantly, the reason why Ryan gets a lot of respect from fans, students and coaches is that he wins, and he wins when people do not expect him to.The best example of his ability to find victories when his teams is underappreciated was last year, when the Badgers won the Big Ten Championship. In both the AP and USA Today polls, Wisconsin wasn’t ranked, mostly due to the fact they had lost the core of their team in Alando Tucker and Kammron Taylor from the season before.But as the season progressed, the Badgers gained momentum, thanks in large part to a big victory over then-No.7 Texas in Austin. No one expected the Badgers to win, especially after losing big at Duke and falling in a nail-biter at home against Marquette.Ryan’s ability to win when it is unexpected has given him the most respect above his other qualities. It’s not only the fact that he did win, but also how he did it. The Badgers did not have a definitive star or go-to man, but they were able to win with good hustle and defense.As the Badgers near their 2008 tip-off, all eyes will be on Ryan to see if he can lead another under-the-radar team to the Big Ten Championship. Fans will have a chance to see if Ryan puts together another hard-working, scrappy group which, like the people of this state, continue to perform at a championship level.Ben is a senior majoring in journalism and history. If you feel like you know Bo, contact him at [email protected]
The road to the top has been bumpy. Baca remembers when he heard the news about Rebecca. When he told the team, most of the girls were sad, and curious to find out what was wrong with their friend. But it also led the team to take on the mission of “winning it for Rebecca,” Baca said. “It was like that would fire the girls up on the field,” Baca said. As the girls kicked their way into their section finals, Baca was confident in his team, but he was also aware of the tough competition they were up against. Without Rebecca, the team was down to 11 players, only two bench players per game. “When the girls got tired, they knew they had to tough it out,” Baca said. During the last game of the section championships, the Highlighters went up against a team that had been undefeated for more than 30 games. Rebecca had missed the previous game – it was the day after her kidney had been removed – but she made it to this important qualifying game. As she cheered on her teammates, they played effortlessly, winning game after game, Baca said. Ultimately, the girls beat the undefeated team 2-0. “When I told the girls we had handed that team their first loss all season, they went crazy. “Their heart was in the game. At one point I wasn’t even coaching them anymore, I was just watching them and cheering them on.” Tori Baca said her team’s priority was to make Rebecca proud. “When she would play with us, she would always go in the right spot, so we wanted to play so hard that it would seem like she was still on the field,” Tori said. Rebecca’s mother, Vicki Buchanan, drove her daughter to all her team’s games. “I wanted her to still be a part of the team,” Buchanan said. And in an odd way, it was soccer, she said, that kept her daughter going. “When we came back from the hospital, the very next day she was ready to get back onto the field,” Buchanan said. Friday, just one day away from today’s state championships, Rebecca was eager to get back on the field. The area on her torso where her kidney was removed is still tender, and even though doctors have cleared her to play, their is some risk involved. But this girl just wants to give a little back to her team. “They call me their good-luck charm,” she said. “I am going to be better luck when I am on the field.” [email protected] (661) 257-5254160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “I was worried that they wouldn’t be OK without me.” What Rebecca never imagined was that her illness would incite her teammates to take their game to the next level. The Highlighters are the first team out of the Castaic Val Verde area to make it to the state championships. “We are making history right now,” Coach Steve Baca said. These 10-year-old girls also are the first in Santa Clarita in the past seven years to make it to today’s Upland competition, which pits the top four American Youth Soccer Organization teams – out of more than 1,000 teams in California, Oregon, Nevada and Washington – against one another. CASTAIC – When 10-year-old Rebecca Buchanan was diagnosed with a 4-centimeter kidney stone, she was worried. When doctors found six more stones infesting her young kidney, she was scared. But when doctors told her they would have to remove the kidney, so swollen it was barely functioning, the preteen was afraid of just one thing: letting down her soccer team. “I was worried about my team,” Rebecca said. Rebecca was in the final games of the season, playing for the Castaic Highlighters.