Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Moment I Will Never Forget

It was a wonderful, magical moment. Two boys captured for me and for all the parents, players, and coaches present what true sportsmanship is all about. Holly and I coach a team of 5th and 6th grade boys in our church's Upward Basketball program. We were playing a game against Tracy's team last Friday night. One of Tracy's players is a boy who struggles with some significant physical limitations. Tristan can't run or jump or handle the ball as well as his teammates, but he always has a smile, a great attitude, and a real desire to be part of the team.

Tristan was being guarded during the game by one of our players, a boy named Nick. Physically Nick is in great shape, big and strong for his age. But Nick has difficulty learning in school and struggles to remember the basics in class or in practice.

The game began with great enthusiasm from both teams, but by the second half it was getting a little one-sided. Our boys began to back off and slow down a little, rather than run up the score. Both teams began to work the ball to their players who had not had a chance to score in this game or even this season.

Tristan finally got the ball and Nick, usually very aggressive and physical, stepped back a little so that Tristan could shoot the ball. His shot was off the mark. Again, the ball came his way. Nick backed up a step, Tristan tossed up the shot, this time wide of the basket.

A moment later the ball was loose on the floor and one of our guys, Zach, batted the ball over towards Tristan. Again, he missed the shot. Time continued to tick away as everyone watched, hoping that somehow Tristan would make his very first basket.

Finally, the ball came back to Tristan. Then, with Nick standing by, Tristan launched a ten footer - nothing but net. The whole gym exploded with cheers for Tristan. We were all clapping and cheering, captured by that beaming expression on his face.

That's when it happened. Totally spontaneous. Unexpected. As Tristan started back down the court, Nick came running by and picked him up, carrying him down the court as the cheers continued. And I don't know who's smile was bigger - Tristan's or Nick's.

It was beautiful, touching, unforgettable. Not often will you see opposing players behave like those two. Only in Upward do players like Tristan and Nick get a chance to play ball and to teach their parents and coaches how to be human beings. Thanks, Tristan, for a great lesson in spirit and perseverance. And thank you, Nick, for reminding us all how good it feels to give a little grace and a little ride to someone who needs it very much.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow! You beautifully captured the moment in words. Wish I could have been there.