PREP SPORTS: Carrolls bonded by coaching basketball
MARSHALL – The scoreboard was still illuminated, the stands were empty and even the school janitors may have left the building.
Travis Carroll’s Marshall Tigers had just finished eliminating Dassel-Cokato from a Class 3A Boys Basketball Section 2 Tournament quarterfinal game by a convincing 68-31 margin, but Carroll is usually one of the last ones to leave the building, along with his family and friends, of course.
Carroll’s father, Harvey, and mother, Sharon, along with two of their family friends sit in the same corner of the gym during every home game. After the game, Carroll helps his family get to the car safely, showing that he is a teamwork-first type of guy, on and off the court.
About 12 years ago, Harvey started getting earaches and his balance became unstable. Over the years, Harvey, a longtime assistant and later head basketball coach at Fulda High School for nearly 30 years, was eventually diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.
Parkinson’s is a disease that can be extremely debilitating on the human body. It affects the nerve cells in the brain that effect dopamine. There is currently no cure for this disease.
When Harvey’s body started to deteriorate from its normal state, the family did the best they could to cope.
Travis had the same attitude today as he did when it first started, thinking of himself last.
“It came as a shock because it was very sudden,’ Travis said. “It was a complete change. You just had to figure out how to deal with it and how to help him out ,too. I’m sure it was very hard emotionally for him. So, I was just trying to come up with ways to help him out. None of us saw it coming.”
A once very active person that enjoyed hunting among a lot of other outdoor activities, Harvey is now in a wheel chair, has a back brace and his speech is barely audible.
Even with all those conditions, he makes sure he gets to the games.
“This time of year, basketball keeps dad motivated,” Travis said. “It keeps him getting around. He’s always looking forward to the next game. I know mom sacrifices a lot in the effort of coming to these games and helping dad get around. We have a great group of people that help. You might see different faces each game. It’s really amazing how the community helps and supports them in this situation.”
Brad Holinka, a longtime friend of the family and a former football and track coach at Fulda, as well as friend Judy Holden and Travis’s brothers, Brad and Chad, are also regulars in the crew that help make sure whoever wants to go to the game is able to go.
Harvey was Travis’s coach for the time he was in high school and also coached his youth league teams. Travis knew he could only benefit from having Harvey as the coach of his teams and also the head of his household.
They weren’t much different.
“The good thing about playing under him was he raised us at home the same way he coached his teams,” Travis said. “I knew what I was walking into going into practice because he was pretty consistent with how he treated the players. He was a coach who demanded respect and, as a parent, he was that way, too. The players knew they had to handle themselves a certain way. It was a fun experience and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
The most important lesson that Travis learned from Harvey that can be applied to the basketball court was the idea of sharing the ball and taking care of others before yourself. The latter part of that statement is also an important part of his everyday life.
It is the main reason why Travis dedicates so many extra hours into making sure his dad is taken care of. Harvey took care of him when he was younger. This is an example of not only paying it forward, but paying him back.
Travis remembers a time at Fulda where the Raiders were No. 7 seed in the section tournament and were heavy underdogs against the No.2 seed. They were able to pull the upset that day thanks to Harvey’s advice about sharing the basketball.
“It was a pretty big upset and we played pretty unselfish that day,” Travis said. “That was some good advice before going into that game.”
Basketball and, especially coaching, is something that has run deep in the Carroll family. Travis didn’t take long to get started in following in his dad’s footsteps.
“He wasn’t even a month old and he was already in the gym watching Harvey coach,” Sharon said. “It has been part of our home and part of our environment for years.”
Travis knows his dad put in a lot of time over the years, but took pride in the fact that it wasn’t just for him. He had his peers and the community involved as well.
Helping his dad get from one place to another as comfortably is possible, Travis feels, is the least he can do.
“He put in the time with the kids and make sure they stayed involved,” Travis said.
Travis remembers when him and Harvey started going to the state tournament together from the time Travis was in sixth grade through last year, when Travis coached his first year at Marshall, one of them was finally more that just a spectator.
The Tigers had made the state tournament.
“That experience last year, out of all those years we went up there was really special,” Travis said. “We were involved in that situation. It was a pretty cool experience.”
Listening to Harvey talk, especially about basketball, it’s not hard to decipher the fact that he has seen a lot in his time with the game. He has seen all the changes in the game over the years, but there is a couple that stick with him the most.
“When the 3-point shot came along, that really changed the game,”Harvey said. “It made playing defense so much harder. Also, the high school athletes now are in the gym working a lot longer and a lot harder than they did when I coached.”
While the game of basketball may have changed since Harvey’s coaching days, there is one aspect that hasn’t changed – playing and coaching basketball hasn’t gotten any easier, no matter how talented your team is.
“You can have talented players, but they aren’t going to go very far unless you can teach them how to play together,” Travis said. “The best teams are the ones where you have five guys working at one unit.”
Of the high school sports, basketball plays one of the longest schedules. This is something that can produce it’s own set of challenges.
Travis definitely understands that aspect.
“Keeping the players focused for 26 games is hard,” Travis said. “There is a lot of things that go into it. You have to keep kids healthy, too. It’s a challenge.”
Holinka knows that a family as tight-knit as the Carroll’s were bound for success as long as he’s known them.
“We are pretty proud of Travis with how he handles himself as a coach and how he handles his team,” Holinka said. “It’s a thing of beauty to watch these Marshall kids play basketball. It’s a lot of fun to watch them play. They are such a close family. You could tell they did everything as a family and it carries on today. They have a very strong family bond.”
One of the things that Travis has come to admire most about this father is about how he deals with adversity, yet another important lesson he has shared with this year’s basketball team.
He knows his teams are going to face even more adversity and his father is a prime example of how it is possible to fight through it.
“As a family, we really respect how well he’s dealt with this” Travis said. “Whether it’s in a game or whether it’s in life, you are going to have adversity. I really look up to him and my mom with the way they have handled the adversity.”
Teamwork, unselfishness, adversity and tough defense that have become Carroll’s mantras for his team as Marshall takes on Mankato East in the semifinals of the Class 3A Section 2 Tournament in just his second year at his first coaching job. He carries with him the teachings of his father.
While Harvey struggles to speak now, it almost isn’t necessary when Travis is around. They already understand each other. They both understand that helping others be better players and better people is something greater than the game itself, even a game that has bonded them together ever since they could remember.
“I’m just fortunate to have the opportunity to coach and be an educator at a school like Marshall,” Travis said. “It has been wonderful, so far. I’m just thankful for the opportunity.”