By T. J. Oakley

Where do adults learn their work ethic from?  How is it that some people can be prompt and prepared, while others struggle to beat red lights and ignore crosswalks in a last ditch effort to arrive on time at their employer?  I have always wondered where the drive to succeed and dedication to a craft comes from. While beginning to speak with a standout performer on the Springville Griffins Varsity football team, I gained great insight into an array of ways good people are assisting our youth, as they transition into adulthood.

I had a brief discussion with senior Ian Baker, No. 24 FB/LB on the Griffins, in which he detailed a schedule as arduous and regimented as most adults.  As a high school student, Baker still wakes with the rising sun and heads to the land of memories, as SGI opens shortly after 7 a.m.  After working hard on his education, ensuring he is prepared for college, Baker heads to the gridiron to hone his pigskin skills. Practice for the hard-working Griffin players and coaches typically runs from 3 to 4:30 p.m.  This nearly 10-hour day can’t be over until the homework is done.  I asked if he enjoys the free time after the football season ends,  and he says, “Actually I wrestle, and play baseball for the school, too.”

Baker has been playing football in Springville from the start when he was 8 years old, way back in 2007.  Earlier this season, he was able to surpass his uncle, Tony Baker, to now be second on the Springville All-Time Rushing List.  After this, his final season in Springville, Baker intends to go onto playing collegiate football.  Baker noted, “I‘m looking at Baldwin Wallace University and Allegheny College as my top choices so far.”  While in college, he plans to major in criminal justice or psychology. Baker surely will be successful as he finishes high school and embarks on his college education.

I asked Baker what benefits he has gained from dedicating so much time and hard work to football and he couldn’t say enough about the positive aspects with relation to life in general. He stated, “The benefits I’ve gained by playing football are endless.  I’ve learned how to work with a team, not as an individual.  Also, I learned how to be coachable, because that is honestly a key component to being a good football player, or athlete in general.”  Teamwork includes responsibility, accountability, and reliability.

Baker has taken advantage of some extra athletic training at Performance Sports, LLC, located in Amherst, NY. Although there are great results with the professional training, it’s obvious that Baker’s strength primarily comes from the incredible support his family provides.  His uncle Bill Baker is a former physical education teacher at SGI High School, whose daughter Jordan Baker was a top Basketball and Volleyball player for the school until graduating in 2000. The aforementioned Tony Baker continued playing football in college, and worked hard enough to be drafted by the NY Giants. Baker’s mother, Kelly, is active in the community and gives her son a great example of the virtues to be found in civic service.

The Baker family is another great example of a local family that has a long history in this town, and are part of what makes our community great.  It’s clear that Ian’s parents, Kelly and John Baker, are doing a tremendous job with raising a responsible youth that they should be incredibly proud of!

With Baker as an example, I would have to say that no one thing can guarantee our children’s future. Work ethic and dedication is a learned skill and it takes continuous maintenance to ensure its’ presence.  The commitment of Baker’s parents, and dedication of the professionals coaching our kids is paramount in leading Springville’s children down the right path.  Football and other team sports help our kids learn to work together as one cohesive unit.

Football has played a big part in Baker’s life, and my impression is that he is going to be very successful in his future endeavours.   In a time where our media seemingly wants to force individuality and difference even if it is not there, hallmarks like football are pivotal in teaching our youth that the strength in America is within our commonalities.