Updated: Apr 3, 2020
With the professionalization of youth, high school, and college sports, it is easy to forget that magical moments can occur within a game that aren't just linked to winning. I had the pleasure of attending a "Senior Night" for a local high school boy's basketball team, and experienced the reminder that sport is an amazing vehicle that can bring out the best in individuals and unite a community. It started with junior leaders on the team honoring their senior teammates with declarations of their appreciation and admiration in front of their families and a packed audience. Time together over the years being teammates, and overcoming adversity and working toward a common goal, grew a bond that allowed the junior players to recognize their teammates with vulnerability and authenticity. It was OK in this arena, for boys to hug and say "I love you".
Then the teams got to business and coach started both seniors, even though one would not normally get many playing minutes. Later in the second half, both seniors on the court, the non-starter who had not yet had a score in the game, took a charge, and the players on the court and the entire bench roared with fire. Chest bumps, fist bumps, and head rubs ensued, and then the players sprinted up the court, where this senior dropped a bucket for two. The entire audience was on their feet chanting his name, and the smile on his face showed pure satisfaction and joy. It wasn't the game winning swish, and winning this game didn't really matter in the larger play off picture. But the emotion of the moment was just as real and every bit as meaningful, and I know it answered any questions of "is this hard work worth it?", that he may have had throughout his bench riding career. The crowd and bench continued to cheer him on. He finished with at least another basket, a few free throws, and another charge. Late in the game, the win was secure, and the coach put the other non starters in the game. Now the five sitting starters were screaming for each individual player, hoping they too could taste the joy of making a basket in a varsity game. As I watched, I kept thinking over and over- this is why sports are awesome!
I wondered how other senior nights were around the area and country. This night is such a bitter sweet experience- a celebration of years of hard work, a chance for one last glory day, the hope of long overdue recognition and opportunity for success, and a goodbye to something that has been a part of one's experience, commonly, for their life time. I hoped others had a great night too. When I checked the online news the next day, I came across this video about a team manager getting his shot on senior night:
Good for the players, good for the coaches, good for the teammates, good for the fans- that is what makes sports awesome!