Text and photos by Steev Riccardo
WEBSTER – Greetings from the sidelines, sports fans!
It was great to see some high school baseball and softball on Friday. There is nothing like being outside and catching some action on the diamond.
This week we welcome our second member of the 2012-13 View From The Sidelines super team, senior Akeem Belnavis from Bartlett high school.
Belnavis was born in Worcester and moved to Queens, New York, when he was five years old before relocating once again to Webster during his freshman year of high school.
“Initially we moved here because my aunt was here and due to some trouble she ended up leaving and we ended up staying,” said Belnavis. “The only reason I stayed at Bartlett was because basketball season was starting, and I played on the jayvee team.”
“The transition from New York to here was hard. It was different when I was first arrived. I felt like everyone was looking at me on my first day, it was like nothing I was used to. Eventually as time passed I adjusted. Kids are friendlier here, kids in the city don’t care, they just go about their day.”
Ironically the first person that Belnavis met and talked to was Dane Laboissonniere, who was at the time a first year history teacher at Bartlett, and also worked as an assistant football coach at David Prouty High School in Spencer
The two would go on a journey together as Laboissonniere became the head football coach at Bartlett the following year and watched as Belnavis was having problems in school.
“I was a class clown in the beginning, I got in a lot of trouble and I was kept back my freshman year. Then Coach L. sat me down when I was going to quit the football team after being suspended for seven games my sophomore year. I was walking off the field and I was ready to quit and he stopped me and gave me a great pep talk and it all worked out in the end.”
“He really made a big transformation in his life three years ago as a sophomore,” said Laboissonniere. “We are really proud of the way he grew as an individual in his time here at Bartlett.”
Belnavis grew up, although it hasn’t been easy. His family life has been a bit of a struggle and he currently has three siblings living with him and his mother and he has a lot of responsibility around the household, but that hasn’t stopped him from going to school and being active.
“Honestly I am not going to lie, my motivation for coming to school was sports, and if there were no sports I don’t know what I would be doing.”
He excelled in both football and basketball and became a co-captain in both sports. “My passion for football and basketball was so high, that is my life and I knew it. I want a future in basketball. That is my goal in life.”
What he didn’t pick up along the way from Laboissonniere, he picked up from his basketball coach Tony Paranto.
“My junior year I had more of a role on the team. I was taught when I was young to score, put the ball in the basket, but when I started playing under Coach Paranto he started teaching me more about the game. He taught me how to move without the basketball. My game got a lot better.”
Belnavis also credits one of his teammates for helping become more or a team player and a leader. “Nick Kobel helped me out, he strives for success; seeing him be that way kicked in for me. His winning mentality is so strong it rolled over to everyone else. I took it to heart, watching him made me play harder. He doesn’t know it but he was a role model for me.”
Now that his great high school career is over, the 6’2” athlete is ready to move on, but it won’t be easy. “Words can’t describe how I feel, I am happy to finish school but to leave the sports is very hard for me. There was nothing like it for me. This was the best thing ever, just sitting here in this gym right now gives me goose bumps.”
Laboissonniere has been pushing him to pursue football in college and the interest is definitely there.
“Being a two-sport athlete, I think he is feeling torn on what he wants to do at the next level. I can’t speak much on the interest on the basketball end but I know that Dean College in Franklin is very interested in having him play football,” said Laboissonniere. “It’s a junior college program and it would be a great opportunity for him to develop and show if he wants to play at the next level. There is also a mutual interest with Curry College.”
Belnavis has applied to both schools, where he wants to major in sociology or sports management and knows the value of having a degree to fall back on. Still, you can tell by his words that he needs to be playing sports to make it all it work. “Regardless of what I go to college for, I am trying out for both sports. It doesn’t matter. The Dean coach said that they can turn me into a D1 player at split end, Coach L. feels the same way and he has never lied to me.”
It wasn’t easy for Akeem Belnavis to move to a town like Webster, but he made it work after a shaky start and he has left his mark at Bartlett.
“He was always a good leader in his life off the field,” said Laboissonniere. “On the field he was tremendous: he got better every year and he got better every day. He was coachable, which is the number one thing we look for in a player. He would listen to what the coaches had to say and use what he learned on the field.”
“He is going to be a tremendous asset down the road at whatever school he goes to. We will truly miss him for his leadership qualities here at Bartlett,” said Laboissonniere.
Akeem Belnavis was an easy choice for the 2012-13 View From The Sidelines super team. He joins Lauren Barton of Shepherd Hill as part of our exclusive club.
More Anna Maria softball talk: JoAnne Bond, mother and “agent” of 2012 Bartlett graduate Lindsay bond was nice enough to let us know that we didn’t mention a third local who is playing with Lindsay and Shepherd Hill’s Sam Miler on the Anna Maria softball team.
Former Shepherd Hill player Liz Haggerty is playing second base and was hitting close to .300 last time we checked.
By the way, Lindsay was hitting .250 with a homerun and four RBI’s, not too shabby for our favorite freshman.
Upcoming big games: On Monday, April 8, Bartlett and Oxford will meet in both baseball and softball in Webster.
Until next week, see you on the sidelines! Contact
with any sports news and check out the new View From The Sidelines Facebook page with exclusive photos and news at https://www.facebook.com/ViewFromTheSidelines