Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.
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There are times in sports when you see it.
You get why coaches are the way they are. Why they push athletes so hard not only on the court, but in life.
You see what a coach can do for someone.
You see sports in its purest form. Just the way it was designed. You see sports as a learning tool accompanying life, rather than being someone's life.
You see stories like Cameron Burney.
Burney's troubles are documented. The 2005 Steamboat Springs High School graduate was disciplined, suspended and eventually kicked off the Sailors basketball team his first three years of play.
"But through the whole thing we maintained a good relationship," Steamboat Springs boys basketball coach Kelly Meek said of his first three years with Burney.
Burney couldn't talk about Meek on Thursday from Alaska without getting a tear in his eye. Meek gets a look of satisfaction - lips partially curved at the edges, cheeks raised, head up and eyes wide open - when he talks about Burney.
It's a relationship that transcends the game. It's a relationship that shows what high school sports are supposed to be about.
In life, each person has had that teacher or coach who made the difference. For Burney - and so many others - that person was Meek.
High school sports are usually judged on wins and losses. In this case, the sport was just what brought Meek and Burney together. Burney was usually the best player on the court. But that didn't matter to Meek, because Burney wasn't being the person he could be off the court. It was a relationship that went far beyond the gym floor on a Friday or Saturday night.
Plain and simple, Meek wanted to see Burney successful away from basketball.
Burney said he just needed to be around someone who always did the right thing. He needed someone to be hard on him and guide him.
Now, Burney is a starting guard at the University of Alaska Anchorage, on track to graduate with career aspirations to be a stockbroker. He credits a lot of people in his life. But as I'm sure Meek and many others will tell you, the biggest change in Cameron Burney's life was when Burney, himself, decided he wanted more.
"You can be your own worst enemy," Meek said. "To date, it's a really nice story to see where a kid can go."
It's more than a really nice story. It's a blueprint for what high school sports should be about.
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