At their best, high school sports are meant to be an extension of the educational process.
While the knowledge earned in this format doesn't exactly mirror the lessons being taught in the classroom, that's because not everything learned on a court or a field can be duplicated. Instead, some of the values gained by working with a team towards athletic glory come from the sheer joy and fun the process creates, and if teachers could bottle that formula, school would be a much more exciting venture for young and old alike.
One individual who embraces these ideas in all the right ways and for all of the right reasons is Community R-6 varsity girl's basketball coach Bob Curtis, whose love for and loyalty to athletics runs deep because it was instilled at such an early age.
"I wanted to be a coach stemming back to my experience as a player. My father played at Truman State University and instilled a love for the game in me at an early age," said Curtis. "My high school coach also played a critical role in what I do now as I loved playing for Bill Dorethy and went to the final four as a player in 1996 under him. Basketball was life in the 90's and we won at a very high rate during the mid to late 90's."
Upon concluding his prep career at Sturgeon High School in 1997, Curtis got accepted by Central Methodist University and graduated in 2001 with a Bachelor's degree in Education. As for what all this equated to on the hardwood as of late, Community R-6 finished 2016-17 with a record of 17-9 overall, 7-3 Eastern Missouri Conference.
"I wanted to give my players the high school experience that I loved so much in regards to playing for a winning program," said Curtis. "The discipline, responsibility, team work, and relationships that basketball players make during the course of a season set them up for what it looks like to be successful in the real world after graduation. For some the four years they are involved in athletics are their fondest memories. That was the case for me."
It was the fall of 2005 when Curtis was hired at CR-6 as a Physical Education teacher and girls basketball coach. Because his father grew up in Laddonia and graduated as a Trojan, not only was he familiar with the area, but he also still had family and friends living in the school district.
"My wife, Deanna Curtis, was also a graduate of Community R-VI and won a state championship in softball in 1995, so we had a lot of ties to the area and knew this was a place we wanted to raise our kids," Curtis said. "It didn't take long to have this group of girls competing for conference and district championships, as we lost to Silex in the spring of 2006 that same year in the district championship game. We won 15 games that season and have averaged 17 wins a season for the last 12 years."
Over the course of his tenure with the Trojans, Curtis has led his teams to four district championships, eight title games and won the EMO once. Making these acheivements even more impressive is that his squads have reached these goals despite being the smallest school in the league. For example, while many of the programs in the EMO have about 500 students, CR-6 often has around just over 100.
"We competed from '05-06 to '11-12 as the second-smallest Class 2 school in the state. We were just over the Class 1 break," said Curtis. "Our motto for a long time has been 'Winstinct' the instinct to win. We want to wear a confidence every night that we should beat our opponent no matter enrollment size or skill of their players. My self and my assistants Stacie Carroz and Haley Nobis have developed a culture of winning and working at the game of basketball year round that has lead to our success."
Another reason Curtis and his staff have been able to buck the low attendance trend is that success breeds more success. Specifically, because the Lady Trojans compete at such a high level from one year to the next, even though the school only has about 50 girls total, there are genreally about 20 athletes per season who come out for the team.
"Our hope is to never rebuild, only reload, which is a tough task in a small school, but one we have been able to for many years now," Curtis said. "We are excited for our move to the Central Activities Conference next season, which is one of the most exciting small school conferences in the state when it comes to basketball with 1A and 2A powerhouses like Glasgow, Cairo, Sturgeon and New Franklin it will be a fun era over the next few years."
Because no man is an island, Curtis definitely feels he's had support in accomplishing all that he has on the hardwood and that starts withn the parents and all they do to supplement the efforts of each and every athlete. He also has nothing but positive things to say about Steve Walton and the on-court skills he's helped impart upon athletes in grades four through six via his numerous clinics and camps that help kids nail down the fundamentals before moving up to the junior high level