I can accept failure; everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” – Michael Jordan
For the first time in a few years, Epworth’s Residential Program has formed a boy’s high school basketball team to play in the local church league. The games are held on Epworth’s campus or at other local United Methodist Churches. Despite none of the boys on the team ever playing organized basketball before, the boys and coach have rallied together, refusing to quit or stop trying. Although the learning curve was steep and hard work was going to be required, the team was ready to take on this new challenge.
After a few tough losses in the first couple of games, it would be understandable if heads were hanging low and team morale was down. However, quite the opposite happened. The team approached their coach, Coach Matt, and asked if they could start practicing 7 days a week. They were highly motivated, humble, and ready to improve. The team got busy and started working on the basics – good defense, good communication, and most of all, good teamwork. Although some of the boys don’t get along very well off the court, once they step into the gym all those differences were put aside for the sake of the team.
In a conversation with Coach Matt, he indicated that he was so proud of how far the boys have come since they first started practicing together. But rather than being blown away at the improvement he has seen in their shooting, defense, technical skills, and speed – he is much more impressed with their attitudes. Before, during, and after the game they have had excellent attitudes and sportsmanship, initiating shaking hands with the other team even after a loss, and maintaining great rapport with the referees. They have played as a team from start to finish, picking each other up when they were knocked down. And these improvements weren’t just seen on the court, but off the court as well. By placing the team first, the boys were motivated to attend all their study halls, stay out of trouble at school, and get all their schoolwork done in a timely manner so that they are able to continue playing. The impact of this team is being felt across campus, and two of the younger boys who aren’t old enough to join the team have joined as “team managers” to assist with practice, getting water, and learning the game.
The Epworth boys were able to pull out their first win on December 17th. They hustled, played impeccable defense, communicated well and played an excellent game of team basketball. They were ecstatic for their first win and it was a pleasure to be able to see the fruits of all their hard work come to fruition. After the big win, I was able to connect with one of the players to get his take on the big win. Jake* had this to say: “We had a rough start to the season, but we are really starting to turn it around. The keys to the first win were defense, communication, and playing as a team. Talk to each other and you will be successful.”
For the Epworth boys, this is just another tangible example of their perseverance. Life has continually thrown curveballs at them, and yet here they are. Practicing hard and moving forward, refusing to stop trying. While they may not go on to win a championship or play in the NBA, the skills they are learning on the basketball court will carry them for many years to come. No matter the outcome of the rest of the season, I believe I speak for all of Epworth when I say we are so proud of this team. Go Eagles!