I often start my blog posts with a title in mind. Today I am just going to type and like I say to my students, "perhaps a title will come."
A few years ago I was a basketball coach, I use that term loosely because really I was just the hype guy because I knew virtually nothing about the sport but I was and will continue to be a Superfan for our student-athletes. Covid kind of put an end to basketball the last few years but this year we finally were back on the court. Both our Pandas and Zeniths had great teams full of talented and awesome kids. The seasons prior to Covid our fan sections started shrinking, kids were not coming out like they once did and I was really worried as restrictions were lifted that we would see the damage done to the fan base but really the opposite happened.
Kids and families from all over the community started coming out to the games, perhaps it was that sense of normalcy returning but I think more likely it was the energy our Zeniths and Pandas brought back to the town. Our fans dressed up to cheer them on, trading cards made and kids lining up for our athletes to sign them. A student cheering section that is the envy of southern Alberta, handling themselves with class (most of the time) and lifting our teams up.
I am grateful to our basketball players because they brought a community back together after a LONG off-season. I am grateful to them because they gave kids and a community something to look forward to and celebrate. I am grateful to them because they carried themselves with so much grace and dignity and represented our community well. They have made us all so proud.
The Zeniths were the number 1 ranked team in the Province. They traveled all over to face much larger teams from much larger schools and they proved they deserved the number 1 ranking by only losing twice in the regular season while bringing home the zone title. Beyond their athletic achievements, these boys were kind and wonderful examples to the elementary kids who looked up to them (literally one of our players is 6'7"). Unfortunately, their season did not end how they had hoped. At the start of this week 4 of the 5 starters and a number of the bench came down with a "non-covid" illness that took their strength. They tried, you could see the pained look of exertion as they tried to keep up with opponents despite just starting to recover from a week-long illness. You could see the heartbreak.
As their final games of the season came to a close I just wanted to tell them how proud of them I am. I still will at school on Monday but I worry it might fall on ears not looking to hear it. We are proud of them. They brought joy to a community desperately in need. They worked their behinds off every game to pump up a crowd. Laughter and conversation returned and often times was born around admiration of this team of talented young men. So I guess I just want to say thank you and I am proud of you. Your parents should be proud of the work you put in. Your coaches should celebrate your sacrifice, the time that it takes to be elite is a lot and you sacrificed so much.
Our Pandas are such a joy to watch. The smiles on their faces even when things are not going their way. The growth they demonstrated as a team moved them up the ranks until they were one of the last two teams standing. Facing the challenge of very impressive player on a good team the Pandas stepped up each time. The number 1 ranked team played our girls 3 or 4 different times and tonight our Pandas almost took home the gold. Two communities on the edge of their seat for 5 minutes in the fourth. I am grateful to our Pandas for many of the same reasons I am grateful to the Zeniths. This team of incredibly talented girls will inspire future generations of Magrath girls looking to become a Panda.
Student-Athletes often get a bad reputation for a lot of reasons. They also have to deal with a fickle fan-based that is often only around for the wins and become armchair experts in the moments of loss. Because I am blessed to teach these kids I know of their brilliance first hand, not just on the court but off of it. I know in moments some adults tend to forget you are only 15/16/17 years of age. I know some adults have said things that hurt. Please know that your community is proud of you. We are grateful for you. Thank you for leading us on the journey back together as a community. The season is over but your impact will go on much longer.
Now to plan the annual Ice Cream Sundae Party.