Some days are good. Other days are great. Every once in awhile you happen on a day that is extraordinary. Today has been one of extraordinary brilliance. I have always loved sports. While coaching the football cheerleaders and raising boys of my own, I began to learn and appreciate football. Baseball has a special place in my heart since it was really the first sport any of my children played and some pretty special people in my life played as well, but basketball. Basketball is a different story. Basketball is MY game. I have loved basketball for forever. Now, when you couple your love for a sport with an intense love for the players, you experience the extraordinary, particularly when you watch them make history. Like an undefeated season. Back to back championships!
As a teacher, a coach and a parent, there are days I feel beat down. Times that I question myself and my ability to do my own life more or less impact the lives of the children in my care. Times that I want to quit, give up, and run away. However, there are moments like today. Moments filled with pride and happiness and joy. Moments that when I look at the faces of those children, I think maybe I am doing something okay.
Sports are unique in that they hold special potential to teach children life lessons. Perseverance. Determination. Humility. Grace. Support. Failure. Success. Confidence. Leadership. Hard work. Listening. Seeing. There are more, but you get the point. I played sports and loved it (most days), but I believe I love helping children develop and grow and learn sports even more than I did playing.
For the girls…
This season I watched a young lady who swore she couldn’t shoot, without using two hands to push the ball up, become the high scorer in a game. She would grab me by the arm and say, “Come help me shoot.” She wanted to be better. I watched another young lady find her ability to lead her team. Even when she wasn’t comfortable in a position, she played it with fervor. She wanted to be a team player. Another young lady struggled to find her shot, but that didn’t slow her down once on defense (and eventually she found that shot). She wanted to help her team. I watched as this team ASKED to have practice because they wanted to work. They wanted to WIN. And they did just that. For the first time in school history, the middle school girls went undefeated. For the first time in school history, the middle school girls won back to back region championships.
For the boys…
This season I watched a group of young men work together to become champions. There was one young man I was particularly proud of this year. At the end of my son’s sixth-grade year, he asked me if I thought he could make the basketball team. My immediate response was, “You’ll never know if you don’t try.” Here’s the thing Billy hadn’t played much basketball…maybe once in recreation. I was so excited he wanted to try out. He played summer basketball with the school team that summer and as an upcoming 7th grader, he played a minimal amount. He was a really green player. He didn’t yet truly know the game. During tryouts of his seventh-grade year, he broke his kneecap. Who breaks their kneecap? The cast came off at the very end of the season, so he played maybe a total of 3 minutes that year. Then summer ball returned and provided him with some minutes and opportunities to learn the game.
Now to this season…
Billy’s absolute biggest challenge is his confidence. However, Billy’s coach always believes in him. He always gives him words of encouragement and praise. He coaches Billy the way Billy needs to be coached. I only wish I could verbalize to his coach how much that means to me. At home Will and I give Billy reassurance of his skills and discuss ways to improve his game. He listens (well at least when I am talking about sports…not so much when I ask him to clean up or do homework). Billy is a coachable kid. However, confidence is the key for Billy to play his best.
For the sweetest part of this season…
Before the first round of playoffs, I sent Billy a text and told him that I would be praying for him to play with extreme confidence. Now, when I tell you that Billy played the best game he had played all year that day, I tell you no lie. That, my friends, is the straight truth. He looked so comfortable and natural on that court. He looked like he belonged. He really did play with confidence. As he and I were talking about the game and I mentioned how confident he played, he said, “Because we prayed for that, Mama.” My heart, be still. Yes, sir, we did! The best life lesson of all was learned on the court. God is the giver of all things.
And to the championship game…
Billy can shoot. He has a beautiful three-point jumper, but he hasn’t been able to get it to fall in a game. In practice, he can shoot it all day. In a game, NEVER. Today though, that baby hit TWO threes. You can only imagine the pride bursting from my heart!! I am humbled and thankful for a God who answers prayers. I don’t believe God has a favorite team he chooses to win, but I do believe God can use a simple prayer to plant a seed in a young boy’s heart.
Today, I watched a group of boys play TOGETHER more so than they have all year. A life lesson learned!! Today, I watched a group of boys fight until the very end. A life lesson learned!! Today, I watched a group of boys savor the enjoyment of winning. A life lesson learned!! Working together and never giving up brings success.
I love each of these children. I am thankful I have had an opportunity to be a small part of their journey and only hope at some point during that time I have shown them a little bit of Jesus.
Five hours later and my heart is still racing because of the brilliance that was today.
Go Trojans! Back to Back Champs!!