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Sports Person of the Week
Burch Bolsters Three Valley Teams
Senior Tommy Burch brings defensive prowess to Valley Regional’s boys’ basketball, football, and boys’ lacrosse squads. Tommy has been a vocal leader for Valley boys’ hoops this year, in addition to giving the team some added size in the paint. (Photo courtesy of Tommy Burch)
Tommy Burch has proved a consummate leader and a valuable contributor for three Valley Regional teams throughout the course of his career. Tommy and the Valley boys’ basketball team are competing in the Shoreline Conference Tournament this week, and the senior big man is playing an increasing role for Head Coach Kevin Woods’s club.
Tommy is also a member of Valley’s football and boys’ lacrosse squads, and he’s had some memorable moments with all three of his teams. During the past year, Tommy was unable to compete on gridiron or the lacrosse field due to both 2020 seasons being canceled because of COVID-19.
Tommy didn’t know it at the time, but Valley’s 20-2 victory over Haddam- Killingworth to reclaim the Principal’s Cup in 2019 was the last football game that he played with the Warriors.
“One of my favorite moments in all of my career at Valley was our game against Haddam-Killingworth at the end of my junior year. It was my last high school football game because of COVID,” says Tommy. “It was a very important game because we played for the Principal’s Cup. We had lost the year before, and we really wanted to get the trophy back. It was a lot of hard work, energy, and a season’s worth of grinding to get to that point.”
Tommy typically comes in off the bench for Valley boys’ hoops, but regardless of whether or not he’s on the court, the senior is always one of the loudest voices supporting the Warriors. Tommy had the chance to feel that support reciprocated by his teammates during Valley’s 65-42 Senior Night win over Hale-Ray on March 11.
“I don’t necessarily play a lot during the game, but the team gave a lot of energy. I think that’s what led to my success on Senior Night,” Tommy says. “That was a game where I played significant minutes. Having those guys have my back and screaming off the bench was huge. The energy they were giving me couldn’t be matched. I don’t think I would have had the game that I did if they weren’t there on the sidelines.”
Tommy knows that he can be most effective on the court through his defensive skills and ability to recognize when it’s time to strike on offense. Tommy brings a defensive mindset to all of his sports, and many of the principles that he’s learned in one often apply to another.
“The job I have isn’t go out and score 20 points. I get big, play defense, and put the ball in the basket when I’m open. Having that extra size can help us in the long run,” says Tommy, who lives in Essex. “Playing defense in lacrosse helped me learn a lot in terms of spacing. I took a step back from basketball last year for personal reasons and, coming back this year, I still had a good idea of what I want to do on the court. I want to make it difficult for guys to put up shots close to basket.”
Tommy adds size to the Warriors’ roster, and that’s a dimension the team lacks in general. Oddly enough, Tommy plays on the offensive and defensive lines on the football field, where he is not typically one of the bigger players.
“It’s funny. As a football player, at center I was undersized. Instead of overpowering people, I try to use their own momentum against them. As a big guy, I know it’s hard to change directions once you get moving. So, instead of running through people, I would use their own movements against them. So, if they want to go left, I will help them go further left than they want to,” Tommy says. “On defense, I’m versatile. I was a defensive end in the books, but I could move in and play defensive tackle, and I’ve even started at linebacker. Against big guys, I use speed and agility, and smaller guys, I use size and strength.”
Tommy feels that playing good defense involves more than just physical abilities. On the lacrosse field, Tommy uses his defensive IQ to the Warriors’ advantage.
“I play close defense, so I tend to stay toward my goal. When I play defense, it’s more reactionary than anything else,” says Tommy. “I like to run the ball up and use my speed and agility, but my biggest strengths are hand-eye coordination and knowing where the offense is going to be before they get there.”
Tommy had to do a lot of work on his own during the past year since he couldn’t practice and train with his teams. With a nearly two-year layoff from lacrosse, Tommy is looking forward to being part of a talented and prepared Warriors’ roster in 2021 spring season.
“We’ve been doing a lot of working out on our own. I’ve gotten to know some of the guys playing at Valley this coming season,” Tommy says. “I know what the roster is going to look like. It’s a talented roster. There are some young guys who are going to come up and perform at a very high level.”
Coach Woods has seen what Tommy brings to the Warriors on both the basketball court and the football field. However, Woods knows that Tommy’s contributions go way beyond his athletic talents.
“Honestly, he’s a college-level athlete in terms of football and lacrosse, so to get him back out on the basketball court this year was a luxury for our team. He’s helped us immensely in practices, too. He’s been incredibly helpful in games of late. It really worked out for him and the team. I’m so happy he came out again,” Woods says. “I’ve coached him in football and, since he couldn’t play football this season, I wanted to make sure that he’s recognized for what he brings to a competitive sport. He’s a great competitor and teammate. He’s a great kid and great student. He’s the embodiment of a student-athlete.”
After his career at Valley is finished, Tommy will head to Springfield, Massachusetts to play Division III football and lacrosse for Western New England University. Tommy plans to major in journalism and communications at the school. Tommy wants to get involved in sports journalism, and he already has a podcast called Tsunami Talk where he flexes his media muscles by talking about professional sports teams.
“Western New England has a great positive energy. The coaches are so supportive, and the teachers and other students that I’ve connected with made it feel so much like home,” Tommy says. “I have a passion for both sports and journalism. My freshman year, I wrote an article about the football for the school paper. I took public speaking my sophomore year. I’ve loved reading and writing in English class. So, mixing my passions for sports with English, it clicked for me. I started a podcast related to pro sports, and I’ve made some progress with that. Every time I get behind the microphone, I get a big smile on my face.”