Sunday, March 6, 2011

Rah Rah Rah**

If you teach at a small school, a very small school located way out in the country in a podunky little town of under five-hundred folks, you rarely get to see the kind of fame that comes along with playing state championship games at the Big House in the State capitol.
This week was a rare week.

For the first time ever, our girls' basketball team made it to the play-offs. And, as if that wasn't enough, they crept forward, inch by inch, until they were taking on the undefeated champions who had knocked every other team down to the loser's bracket.
On Saturday, the stadium was full.

I've taught at this small private school for nineteen years now, so I wasn't at all surprised to see former students everywhere, some even coming from out-of state; many of them had been out of school for forty years or more, but they wouldn't have missed supporting the alma mater for anything.

It turned out to be a game worth watching, and talking about for a long time.

Now, I have a confession to make to those of you who don't know me--the real me: I'm not very athletic. Oh I know, I do the mandatory working out and walking routine, but that's to keep my blood pressure down.

I coach drama and academic team. I teach Bible, and sometimes Spanish or history or English, but I don't know the first thing about basketball. In fact, the only teams I've ever seen play are our own, and most of the time I've watched those from the concession stand.

I've never seen a game on television or watched a game in another town. It isn't really something I enjoy. However, these players are our girls. I know them. I watch them at school every day. They're not boastful, arrogant, crude or selfish. They are ladies. If any team deserved support, they did.

So I was there. Up in the stands, close to a railing I could vault over if I needed to escape the crowds in an attack of claustrophobia, holding on my lap a bag of books and my trusty nitro pills in case the stress brought on an attack of chest pain.

Across the arena, I could see the coach, a mild-mannered, Godly man, the one who opened the school every morning, made the coffee, met his team in the gym for early practice, then joined us in the teachers' workroom for morning devotions before he taught his first hour math class.
"Now, Lord," I hesitantly breathed inside, "I know I shouldn't pray for a winning game, because that's really a quandary when every last person over on that side is praying the opposite way, but that man really deserves an honor like this.

He's not a cussing, fuming, ranting, raving maniac. He's a true coach. And those girls are honorable, clean, sincere, patient girls. It would be wonderful if they could play today as well as they are able and show the state how many hours they have put into this moment."

And they did. It was an incredible game. Not flashy three-pointers for us, just consistent handling of the ball, intuitive knowledge of where the other players would be, basket after basket, responding to pressure, sportsmanship, smiles. The other team, while shaken at times, responded well too. They rallied against a huge lead and sank amazing three-pointers to bring the game to a heart-pounding last quarter. I managed to take deep breaths and barely avoid a fatal heart attack, but I wasn't sure for a few minutes there.

Finally... It was over. In a split second, I punched a button and sent a text message to a dozen people.  We won!

 No, I hadn't practiced for hours and hours; I hadn't touched the ball; I seldom saw a game. But these were my students. This was my school. And I felt as proud as our crazy cheer-leading guys in screaming blue and white and gold.

* Pictures used with permission by RES and Bluncks Studio

** With apologies to Sunday Scribblings whose prompt this week was "raw".


JTS said...

What a delightful, uplifting read! There is nothing more fun than when the underdogs pull of the unexpected and bring forth victory, and do so with grace and winning attitudes. You wrote this story so well that I could have been sitting there next to you cheering the girls on! An extra smile for your clever bending of the writing prompt! :-)

Mary said...

Congratulations - those are some great pics! I expect everyone in your school and town is now following your blog :)

Lisa said...

I think you could stretch this to meet the prompt. I am quite certain that the nerves of every fan in attendence were indeed "RAW" in anticipation.

What a wonderful happening. Thank you so much for sharing! Congratulations to the Coach and team!

Roshelle said...

I echo all your sentiments, Lilibeth! I love those girls, too. They are exactly as you say, as well as Coach, too. Such a wonderful, wonderful group of girls... and all the adversity they had to overcome with Coach's health in the recent weeks... it was all meant to be. It made each of them stronger and more determined than ever. Our God is amazing! And I love love love our little school out amongst the tumbleweeds and dirt devils in the middle of nowhere really... but it's mine... and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Rebecca said...

Joyce, I had noticed all your links to the State Championship Tourney; and I had recalled your telling me all those years ago that you had no clue about the game of basketball. All you really knew was there was a goal at each end of the gym. My immediate thought was "Wow, Joyce has changed. She's learned this game and supports those who play it." Ha. Ha. This post shows the woman I know. You certainly DO support those who play it, coach it, cheer for it. You're a lover of people, and you're "loving" them as you sit in that gym. Your blog post is MOST excellent! It's a fabulous read, and it's all true. Elton & I learned to respect Coach Fellenstein years ago when we were at Corn & he was in OKC. He IS so deserving of this win, this honor; and I know, like you, he's lifting up the young women who accomplished it, taking little to no credit himself. It is a marvelous "God-thing." I love you all, and I love this thrilling honor bestowed upon those of Corn Bible Academy. PTL!

aftergrace said...

Yay team! I'd rather root for the underdogs any day.

Linda May said...

Being proud can be raw too. Is your throat raw from cheering? Like you I am a dud at sports, much to the disappointment of my sports minded family, but I can see your pride in your little school and its basketball players. How lovely.

Roshelle said...

definitely RAW! You are right Linda- raw throats, raw nerves after watching 3 days in a row of state tournament basketball games. But most of all raw emotion. The love for the coach and players along with the happiness and pride... emotions so raw one could literally weep.

Catherine Denton said...

I love the excitement in their faces--pure glee!
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Old Altonian said...

Congratulations to your team, and to you for writing about them. I have been a sportsman all my life so I know the feelings you describe. I think an invisibly implied Raw fits your piece very well.

jaerose said...

'podunky' - what a fantastic phrase..and a great really captured the spirit in those photos..and you belonged to that game even if only for a short while..Jae

Carina said...

I'm so proud of the girls! You're right; if anyone deserved it, they did.

anthonynorth said...

I love it when the underdogs succeed. Great post.

Karen Whittal said...

Almost like the movie Facing the giants, well done.