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".