Aaron Colen, Sports Editor, Aaron.Colen@chickashanews.com
For some kids, basketball is something that happens after school from October through March. For E.J. and Dominique Golightly, basketball has truly been an all-day, every-day, all-year pursuit since they were four years old, and that dedication has helped produce two of the top players in the Chickasha High School basketball program.
E.J. is the senior starting point guard for the boys basketball team, and along with center Joey Sylvester, he provides a majority of the offensive production. Because the Fightin’ Chicks lack a back-up point guard, E.J. has to play the entire game, every game.
Dominique is a freshman who can play almost every position, and after spending last season playing with the Chickasha Middle School eighth grade team, on which she was the leading scorer. The year before that, she was MVP of the Friend Falcons state championship team. This year, she quickly established herself in the starting lineup of the varsity from the first game of the season.
E.J. and Dominique are the children of Eric and Melanie Golightly, and the parents have totally invested in the success of the children, both on and off the basketball court.
The approach Melanie and Eric take is somewhat of a balancing act. Eric has had basketball in his blood since his youth. He began playing in seventh grade, and worked hard to make himself good enough to play at the college level.
After playing high school basketball in Houston, Texas, Eric began his college career at Midland Junior College. Upon finishing his time there, he attended Cameron University in Lawton for a year before finishing up at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.
He was a student-teacher at Chickasha Middle School when he began coaching, and he currently works at Bill Wallace Early Education Center and coaches an 8-and-under team at the YMCA.
“Basketball was kind of like a way of life for me,” Eric said. “It poses a challenge. It was a way for me to release stress. It changed my outlook on life. I’m really emotional about it because of what it has done for me. It showed me how to be a leader, how to have confidence. It showed me not to give up.”
That passion transfers to how Eric guides his children in their growth as basketball players. He pushes them relentlessly, never settling for less than 100 percent effort in workouts or in games.
“I push them a lot,” Eric said. “It’s hard coaching your kids. Many times we’ve been to the gym and they wouldn’t do what I wanted them to do, or they were dragging their feet, and I’d just send them to the house.
“I tell them, in order to play this game, you’ve got to be tough. And life is going to be the same way, it’s going to be tough. You won’t always be able to quit and stop playing.”
So there’s one side of the story. There is the push, the drive, the intensity. On the other side, Melanie provides a different, but equally important, type of support.
“I’m the mediator,” Melanie said. “I tell them ‘Just listen to your dad. Don’t say anything, just listen’. And I just support them.”
Melanie also is there to make sure the kids stay humble, and behave themselves in a way that represents the family name well in school and in the community.
“I try to make sure they stay humble about everything,” Melanie said. “You don’t want to be out there talking lip, don’t be out there cussing. We want them to be respectful on the court and off the court. I’m always the middle man saying ‘You can’t do what your daddy did when he was in high school’ because he was a hot-head.
“I tell their teachers at the beginning of the school year, [the kids] aren’t going to come home and disrespect us, and they’re not going to disrespect you,” Melanie said. “We always tell them that their name is their worth. You’re representing everybody.”
With Eric doing the training, applying the pressure and promoting the work ethic, and Melanie presenting the same values, as well as others in a gentler way, the results can be seen on the basketball court.
E.J. is averaging 19.8 points per game through the first four games, doing a good job of shouldering the much heavier load he has to carry this season than he did in the last.
“It’s different,” E.J. said. “Last year we had Jacobi there, who was always ready to score. I kind of got used to it after the first game.”
That first game was a loss to Noble, but Golightly scored 23 points in the opener. Earlier that same night, his little sister was turning heads with her debut.
Dominique scored the first 10 points of the game against the Noble Lady Bears, and although she finished only 10, the game served as notice to everyone who saw it that she was going to be a contributor this season.
“I was surprised I was hitting those shots, and just surprised that I came out with that intensity,” Dominique said.
Her coach, Christy Edelen, wasn’t as surprised, and said that nothing Dominique does all year will exceed her expectations.
“I have big expectations for Dominique,” Edelen said. “I got to coach her in eighth grade last year, and watched her play other times as she was growing up, so she definitely hasn’t exceeded my expectations yet.”
Dominique said she has looked to other players on the team for guidance and examples, particularly senior Sierra Hamilton, who worked out with Dominique and her father over the summer.
Both Dominique and E.J. give credit to their parents for where they are now, and where they will go in the future.
“[My dad] has pretty much taught me everything I know,” E.J. said. “Mom’s just always there to tell us ‘good job’ and helps us with that.”
Above and beyond being coaches or motivators, Eric and Melanie are just proud parents as they watch their children excel. Eric always sits near the front during games, and can be heard shouting advice and encouragement to his kids on the court. Melanie films the games, and the family often spends time at home breaking down game film. It’s not out of obligation, but because basketball really is a lifestyle for the Golightly family.
“I’m extremely proud of those kids,” Eric said. “I’m probably the happiest dad in the world. They’re good kids, and this is just exciting for me. These are the best years of my life, being able to watch my kids play.”