In the spotlight

It has been quite a while since my last post. I’m sure I’ll get back to it, but this needs to be heard.

Parenting two middle schoolers has taken our calendar from simply full to downright chaotic, and there isn’t a school function they are willing to miss. Two weeks ago, I attended a middle school basketball game. Our oldest is a cheerleader, so it’s always great to see her and her friends working hard to keep up the school spirit. I have found that middle school basketball can get quite intense. With bad calls by the referee, catcalling disapproval by parents, and the jeering from the opposing student section, these games are rather entertaining.

I did use the word entertaining, but a better description of this particular game would be heartwarming. Our team was losing by a landslide and there really wasn’t any chance for our boys to get the win. With just a few minutes on the clock, a time out was called. Immediately I was annoyed, as my body was starting to protest sitting on a bleacher seat for even one more minute. Seriously, a time out? For what? As I watched the coach talk to the team, I realized this time out wasn’t really about the game. The coach walked over to the other team and again quickly said something to the opposing coach, who gave an agreeing nod. My curiosity was beginning to overrule my protesting body. The only words I could make out from the coach were “hands off.” What? Hands off?

The teams took the court for the last few minutes of the game and the cheerleaders took their cue. We had the ball on the sideline. The player throwing it in yelled a play and pointed to one boy, who instinctively moved where he was told to go. The ball was thrown in to one of our best shooters and quickly passed to another player. This is a boy who doesn’t get a lot of play time. He sits the bench more often than not, but he is full of school spirit and always happy to be there with his team. Our team was losing and the opposing coach gave the word, “hands off.” I got it. My heart started to melt and the tears were welling up. Our coach wanted to give this kid the spotlight! If you didn’t know this boy, you would never know that he is a student with special needs. The other team didn’t know. Their parents didn’t know. The referee didn’t know. He is simply one of our boys.

He caught the ball. Turned toward the hoop and tossed it up. He missed, but caught the rebound. There was movement on the court, but no one attacked. Nobody from the other team came near. It was like a dance. Our players moved with their players and only the boy with the ball was attacking the hoop. With only seconds on the clock, he tossed the ball up again and this time it went in! The buzzer rang. The game was over. We lost, but our team, our coach, our cheerleaders and our parents stood, cheered, clapped, whistled and some of us cried a little.

This was more than a game. This was a life lesson for all involved. This was a demonstration of kindness, compassion, and inclusion at its best. Our boys moving on the court were protecting our shooter and giving him the best possible chance of making the shot. As we walked out that night, I overheard comments of awe and praise. My own daughter asked me if I saw that shot.

This one act of kindness will forever be remembered by those who saw it, but for that one player it will be a life memory – the day he made the shot just before the buzzer sounded and the crowd went wild! It’s a memory all players want to have, but very few will ever get. It’s a hopeful wish for those players that sit the bench more often than not, but this coach made it a reality for a kiddo that many other coaches may not have considered.

As we walked out that night, I interrupted the two coaches talking just to say thank you. That’s not good coaching. That is GREAT coaching!


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