The purpose was simple: Believe—in your abilities, in your value, in your team, in yourself.
Twenty-five years ago Coach Bill Weaver led the Lady Bucks Basketball Team to the Class C State Championship and brought a proud community along for the ride. This was such a momentous event that former player Kelley (Prosser) McNamara fondly remembers, “coming back to town with a police escort after the championship game and seeing people come out onto the streets to cheer and welcome us home brought tears to my eyes.” This significant achievement was the crowning jewel of an impressive thirty-year career spent as a teacher, coach, and mentor in the little town of Buchanan. Another player, Shelley (Colpetzer) Kilgore, can still remember the look on his face after they won the state championship and described it as “priceless and proud.”
From 1979-2009, Coach Weaver lived and breathed basketball and his infectious love for the game inspired a generation of Bucks to fall in love with it too. If you graduated from Buchanan during that time, chances are you were fortunate enough to cross his path at some point. He was your gym teacher, your coach, your Junior Bucks Basketball coordinator, and your summer camp director.
On the court, Weaver was focused and intense. When asked to recall her favorite memory of her coach, Belinda (Deeds) Thompson said, “Although I like to tease him about it, my favorite memory is him pulling me off the bench by my ponytail to get me to the check-in table when he wanted me back in a game.” His old-school toughness and strict discipline paired with an open and giving heart earned him the highest level of respect from players, parents, and officials. But despite his numerous awards and accolades (and the list is long), Coach Weaver always remained humble. His players recall that he never liked the attention that was directed his way and always chose to deflect praise to his team. According to Thompson, “He didn’t share the spotlight: he instead redirected it to shine fully on those around him.”
Coach Weaver preached sportsmanship before it was cool. He stressed the importance of representing your school and your community in a positive way both on and off the court. This lesson even found its way on to the playlist of pre-game songs during his tenure. Many of his players remember bursting out of the locker room when the first lines of Be True To Your School by the Beach Boys rang out over the gym’s loudspeaker. Carrie (Flenar) Franklin recalled that sportsmanship was as important to Coach Weaver as winning. According to Franklin, “He taught it, modeled it, stressed it and expected it daily. We didn’t argue calls, we didn’t taunt opponents, we didn’t play dirty, and we weren’t arrogant. He wouldn’t stand for it and we knew it. We respected the game, each other, our coaches, the fans, the officials, and our opponents. We learned that it was equally important to handle both wins and losses gracefully.”
He cultivated teamwork and harped on the importance of attitude. Hope (McBeth) Dryden remembers his commitment to the concept of teamwork and said, “From the top of the line up to the bottom, he made us all feel like we were special and an important part of the team.” When his former players were asked to recall their favorite memories of their beloved coach, without exception every single one of them mentioned the “WE WILL” statements. The “WE WILLS” were a list of twelve affirmations created by Coach Weaver that outlined how the team would practice, play, study, work together, grow as a team, and succeed. They were memorized and recited by the players before every practice and every game. The statements were framed on bedroom walls and scribbled in notebooks. They became so ingrained in each of his players’ lives that all admit to still utilizing them as adults. Katie (Carpentier) Shelton said, “His “WE WILLS” became fundamental to our daily routine as a team, and later to my own basketball teams. We will have positive attitudes has become paramount in my classroom where I frequently remind my students to “choose their attitude!” Jennifer Prosser unequivocally stated, “Everything I learned about goal setting, I learned from Mr. Weaver.” Nicole (Smith) Spencer added, “As I coach my own basketball team now I often catch myself thinking what would Mr. Weaver do?”
How was he able to commit so much of his time to his players and foster personal and treasured relationships with each and every one of them? This question appears to have only one answer—Pam. The fatherly role played by Coach Weaver was rivaled only by the motherly figure that his wife, Pam Weaver, demonstrated throughout his teaching and coaching career. Katie (Young) Sherwood described her as “The Sunshine of the Team.” Pam hosted team dinners, washed uniforms, and sat behind the bench for every game. She was a constant source of support for the girls and Lesley Shepherdson said of Pam, “She had a way of always putting everyone first with her unconditional grace and caring ways. There were times after a mistake on the court and I would come to the bench, it was just her sweet smile of reassurance that would let me know my mistakes were okay and I would do better next time.” Their combined dedication made them an unbeatable team and a powerful partnership to have in your corner. Kaycee (Pritchard) Wagley reminisced about their role in her life and said, "Mr. Weaver was more than just a coach, he taught me more than the game of basketball. He taught me about the game of life. When I hurt my knee and had surgery, It meant the world to me that Mr. and Mrs. Weaver would take me to physical therapy and coach me through the hardest physical challenge of my life."
But his impressive record only tells part of the story. It doesn’t tell how he took a group of individuals and turned them into a team. It doesn’t show how he mentored an entire generation of kids and instilled values that would serve them long after the final seconds ticked off the scoreboard. The numbers prove that his plan worked, but they don’t reflect his greatest purpose: to encourage kids to believe in their worth and believe in themselves. No, you can’t measure that in winning percentages or engrave that on a plaque. This purpose was too big to be tucked away in dusty old scrapbooks and too important to be relegated to distant memories of pep rallies and police escorts. It is a legacy that lives on in the hearts of his former players and the pride of a small town.
So as his former players gather at the home basketball game this upcoming Friday night to honor Coach Weaver’s legacy and celebrate the 25th anniversary of the State Championship, he will assuredly try to turn the attention to his girls. He will probably talk about their importance in his life and will certainly downplay his role in the whole affair. He might not even remember the small details and the big life lessons that he imparted on all of us. But WE WILL.
- Shelley (Kilgore) Colpetzer
- Hope (McBeth) Dryden
- Carrie (Flenar) Franklin
- Julie (Metzger) Georgeoff
- Letitia (Bowen) McGuff
- Kelley (Prosser) McNamara
- Jenny Prosser
- Belinda (Deeds) Thompson
- Katie (Carpentier) Shelton
- Lesley Shepardson
- Katie (Young) Sherwood
- Nicole (Smith) Spencer
- Kaycee (Pritchard) Wagley
Stacey Carlin is a lifelong Buchanan resident and a wife, teacher, and mother of three. She is the author of a popular online blog titled “Layin’ Down Roots” featuring essays about family, life, and hometown pride. You can also find her columns in the Berrien County Record and the South Bend Tribune.