Why Bridgeport? Thorough Cleaning Out of My Closet Uncovers Memories of BHS Teams and Athletes Past

By Jon Griffith on February 17, 2024 from Why Bridgeport? via

As a general rule, I disapprove of procrastination.  Anyone who knows me would likely agree with that personal assessment.  However, there are some chores that I don’t enjoy.  Hence the term “chore”.  Often, I find myself attempting to put these tasks off for as long as possible.  It is not that they are all that difficult, time-consuming, or exhausting.  Very simply, I dislike them and don’t want to do them.   
For me, one of the primary ones is going through my old clothes to get rid of any that are out of style, no longer fit, or I don’t want to wear any longer.  The thought of going through jam-packed closets or dressers is one that I actively push to the back of my mind in hopes that I can avoid it altogether.  
Unfortunately, avoidance is useless.  At some point, available space, or rather, the lack thereof, brings the situation to a critical mass.  Thereby forcing me to undertake this daunting task.  
Just such a time arose recently.  Despite my hesitation, the operation, as usual, was reasonably painless and, for the most part, easily accomplished.  Surprisingly, as it turned out, I also found some unexpected pleasure in the process.
While that may be a revealing and somewhat troubling look into my psyche, my unreasonable build-up of apprehension over a simple chore is not the point of this blog.  As I rummaged through my clothes, I was astonished at how many Bridgeport High School adorned coats, jackets, sweat pants, polos, pullovers, and t-shirts still fill my closets and drawers.  
This wasn’t my first attempt to purge clothing since I retired.  I have filled multiple garbage bags with clothes to be discarded or donated to those in need on more than one occasion.  Yet, even though it has been over three years since I last coached at the school, I still have more BHS apparel than I could ever hope to wear.  
The funny thing is that as I rummage through the various items of Cross Country, Track & Field, or BHS clothing, each brings back a memory or, more often, a collection of memories.  In my mind, I am instantly transported back in time, with crystal clear recollections of days gone by.  Visions of people, places, and events are forever recorded in my brain’s feature film autobiography.  
I distinctly recall Assistant Principal Jim Romeo’s disbelief and gratitude at my asking to volunteer to help coach the BHS Track & Field team, of which his son was a member.  I remember Jeff and the handful of other athletes on that first team.  Through the years, they were joined by thousands more athletes to become part of the storied history of BHS T&F and XC.  It was with great joy that I and the coaching staff were able to help so many of them improve and succeed.    
While most of our athletes did not return to the program after graduation, they have achieved great things in other fields, careers, and areas of their lives.  I remain in contact with many of them today.  Their successes continue to add to the pride they bring to their families and the City of Bridgeport.  Each team shirt I take out of the drawer embodies that year's athletes, parents, sponsors, and the team’s accomplishments. 
Over the years, several of our athletes have returned as fellow coaches in our program.  Their contributions can never be overestimated.  Their love of the program and the gifts and talents they brought to the team are something for which I am forever grateful.  The great times and extraordinary success we shared come rushing back to me every time I pull one of our coach’s coats, pullovers, or polos off the hanger.  
However, most of my Bridgeport, Track & Field, and XC apparel items are t-shirts.  At one point, I had over two hundred shirts from cross country and track meets.  They represented venues from Cable Midland to Jefferson County, Wheeling to Charleston, and St. Mary’s to Elkins.  Over three decades, we traveled to almost every part of the state.  Most trips were commemorated with the purchase of a meet shirt.  Between home and away events, I became inundated with t-shirts.    
For me, those shirts and venues across the state also represent the people who put on the events in those locations.  Coaches with whom we would battle year in and year out.  I have great respect for most of them.  Many of those coaches I consider more than just colleagues and competitors.  They are also friends, even though I don’t see them now as often as I would like. 
In just over a week, another spring sports season will begin.  It has been a significant time of year for me as an athlete, coach, and official since 1975.  Although I am no longer coaching, I can still smell the change in the air that comes with the onset of spring.  The anticipation.  The unbridled hope and high expectations.  It brings a smile.  The same smile I am sure it brings my successors.  The beginning of the 2024 BHS Track & Field season is almost here. 
“Why Bridgeport?”  I was blessed to have been given the opportunity, tools, and encouragement to succeed here.  Mine is not an isolated case.  Anyone and everyone here with a passion for something, the willingness to work hard, and the persistence to not give up will likely find the same community support that I did.  Examples of such are happening every day in Bridgeport.  Each is another reminder that our city motto remains true.  “Opportunity Lives Here.”  
As I contemplated which items to purge from my wardrobe, I couldn’t bring myself to pitch even one piece of the apparel from my coaching career.  It turns out there were just too many memories.  Instead, I opted to rid my closet of some old and outdated flannel work shirts.  Maybe next time.  Although somehow, I doubt it.
Editor's Note: Top and third photo are from past track events, including going back more than 30 years. Second photo shows Jon Griffith with former student-athlete, coach and program supporter Ryan Nicewarner. Bottom photo shows Griffith, left, with current coach and former student-athlete Grant Burton and former coach and former student-athlete Emilee (Stout) Yurish.

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