Coaching boys’ basketball this year has been one of the most challenging experiences of my (quite short) career thus far. Our school opted to not have a third team, and without making cuts it has left me with seventeen players on my squad… not exactly ideal when five players are on the court at a time.
However, despite the frustrations, this season has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my (still quite short) career. We played a school last week that had a boy with Down syndrome on it. The coach approached me and asked if it would be okay to play the boy for a brief thirty-second span. After hearing the boy’s story and knowing that he rarely is allowed to play (other coaches tend to not want him on the court), I was thrilled to have the opportunity to help him see some time on the floor. At the same time, I was nervous how my players would handle the dynamics of the boy’s disabilities in a game with such physical contact.
Never have I been a small part of something so monumental. I had our guys running our offense as we would any other game, but defensively we allowed the team to work the ball to this resilient young man. To my amazement, we all watched in awe as the boy sunk a shot. His team’s fans and teammates went wild, cheering and hollering because it was the first basket he had ever made in a game. Tears welled in my eyes when I looked back and saw my team jumping out of their seats to cheer for him as well. Our players on the court even high-fived him and celebrated the major accomplishment that this young man had just achieved.
I was, and am, forever changed.
Seeing how genuinely and openly every player wanted this young boy to succeed broke apart all of the callous thoughts my heart has conceived and molded a new sense of trust in humanity. We ended up losing the game by two points in double overtime, but the guys walked away from the game proud of their sportsmanship. Most importantly, they were proud of the boy on the other team for scoring a basket, and even for overcoming all of his obstacles in order to play basketball. My team gives me hope for our future!