Monday, February 17, 2014

A Game And More Than A Game

Photo courtesy of Jamie Fitzgerald

Friday, February 14th, 2014  

Where were you?  If you weren't in the Carlisle High School gym, you missed one of those moments in time that you will remember for the rest of your life.  Our Carlisle girls basketball team completed a fantastic regular season by winning a share of the Raccoon River Conference Championship with a 47-42 victory over #3 Ballard , in front of a near capacity crowd.  The win finished a season that saw the team go from 1-22 a year ago, to 15-6 in 2013-14, and a conference championship.  Pretty remarkable and inspiring.  Hats off to the coaches and players for showing us that if you work hard, believe, and do it together, great, and some might say, improbable things, can happen.  A season of memories has already been created, with the post season yet to come.  

What's awesome is that even though we could go on and on about our girls basketball team, it's what happened at the end of the boys game, in a 20 point game, that will be etched in our minds for years to come.  It was the last shot of the game, and what led up to it, that makes athletics at the high school level special, as it continues to teach us about values like cooperation, self sacrifice, and sportsmanship.  It's about taking advantage of the moments given to us to make others around us better.

(From Andrew's first basket at JV game in December)
Photos courtesy of Tracy Rector
Edited print by Vicki Born

Andrew Sharp, a young man with some special learning needs, decided he wanted to go out for basketball his senior year, when he's never been out before.  To be honest, I didn't know if he'd show up the first day, or if he did, if he'd last the entire season.  But, and lucky for us, he did.  Andrew got into several JV games. Each game day he would be dressed up, usually in a tie, and ready to discuss the day's upcoming game at lunch.

As this year's Senior Night approached Andrew wasn't sure that he wanted to be a part of it.  As Coach Nelson talked to Andrew for a second time, Andrew confided in him that he didn't want to play in a varsity game.  Coach assured him that he wouldn't have to play, but we just wanted to introduce him with the rest of the seniors before the game.

For this all to happen, another important thing needed to happen.  Someone had to give up a uniform for Andrew.  Into the story stepped junior Noah Smith.  In a classy display of sacrifice, Noah volunteered to give up his uniform for Andrew.  Noah set an outstanding example of self sacrifice and servant leadership for all of us.  Elements of character that will serve Noah well for the rest of his life.

As the game worked its way toward a 20 point margin, I started to watch Andrew with about 4:00 to go. You could tell he was now thinking he might want to get into the game.  Our student body was starting to chant his name, and the gym was starting to get a bit of a buzz.  As Andrew entered the game, the CHS gym erupted.  He got up a couple of three point shots thanks to all of the players on the floor, but as time was winding down, it looked like he probably wouldn't score.  Enter the Ballard team into the story.  I can't be sure if their Coach told them what to do, but it seems like he probably told them to do all they could to get Andrew a basket.

With Ballard inbounding the ball on the baseline under the Carlisle basket, a Ballard player, along with a Carlisle player, gently pushed Andrew up toward the ball so he would be guarding the ball.  Andrew got to the inbounder, and while guarding the ball, forced a bad pass (that's how I remember it), grabbed the ball, and made the short shot as time ran out.

The moment was one of the best I've witnessed in 29 years of being involved in high school athletics.

THANKS to the Ballard coaches and players for playing a part in creating a memory; to Noah Smith for giving up his jersey so Andrew could have his moment; to the Carlisle coaches and players, who worked with Andrew throughout the season, and probably were blessed more than he was; to the Carlisle student body for fantastic support of Andrew and to the Ballard crowd, who joined in chanting "Andrew" at the end of the game.  It was a magic moment.

And finally, thanks to Andrew for teaching us a few things by what you did.

You showed us courage by being brave enough to do something you had never done before.

You taught us to be excited about every opportunity by being excited about every game.

You faced the fear of senior night, and then embraced the moment when it was presented to you.

You've taught us that there's always time for a high five, and plenty of them.    

We could all be a little better at what we do by following Andrew's lead in four areas of our lives.

  1. Don't be afraid to try
  2. Be excited about every opportunity
  3. Embrace the moment
  4. Don't forget to celebrate the good things in life.