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  • Writer's pictureAshley Thomas

Bigger than Basketball

I have always loved the game of basketball. My reason why has shifted over the years. In my youth, it was the competition. I loved competing at a high level. Eventually it was the opportunities the game awarded: education, life skills that were developed, chances to travel, meet new people and of course…become a better basketball player. Now, it’s watching it from a new viewpoint and helping young women enjoy the game, but to also be mindful of the type of people they are becoming.

I love teaching x’s and o’s as much as the next coach, but time (maybe my mother’s voice in the back of my head) and experience has taught me, some things become bigger than the game.

Our staff sat down with seniors at the beginning of the year. We have been intentional about the culture of the program, and the type of people our ladies are on and off the court - especially when it comes to how they treat each other.

I didn’t have much to add to that conversation, but I felt inclined to say:

Some day when you look back on your career, people won’t remember how many points you had, and eventually you will forget how many games you won. BUT, people will remember how you treated them. How do you want to be remembered?

I used to hate any sentence that began with, when you are young….mostly because rarely does anything complimentary follow that statement. However, being youngish and getting to experience it all with new eyes, a window of time (high school) that I didn’t handle well - is humbling.

Each time one of our girls gets frustrated about a call (I think that may have led to a technical for me), the frustration that comes with not getting the ball in the post when you want (I for sure yelled) or simply seeing your teammates as a means to an end when it comes to winning. Which means there is no regard for what is said after a game about someone’s performance because…it is all about winning. Right?! I have been the MVP, and I have also been the last person to come off the bench. All of it made me who I am today. The game can make you a better human being. Being a coach this season has done just that. It has forced me once again to take a step back, and reevaluate what is most important as we compete.

I get the opportunity to be a part of some pretty incredible communities. While my time actually living in Slinger was short, I am incredibly grateful that it led to me being a part of the Slinger athletic community this year.

We had a bigger than basketball moment today. Jackson is our team manager and if you have been to a game you can hear him coaching the girls loudly from the sideline. He is encouraging, direct (and often very spot on with his critique). More than that he is a complete JOY to be around. You can’t help but leave a conversation with him, without a smile on your face, and a reminder of the good that does exist in this world.

Our head coach put together a tournament for the Hartford Hawks. This incuded his son (Jackson), and his friends against our Slinger Sports teams today. Football, baseball, wrestling, softball, track and field, and of course both girls and boys basketball joined the competition. As we cheered from the sidelines, I was completely wrapped up in the moment - I went from having chills as participants scored, or had a good defensive stop and had so much pride in what they were able to accomplish. To tears in my eyes watching Jackson run down the court with an extra pep in his step after scoring. (Same tears coming down my face now as I recall it). People came together today to enjoy a game we all love. More than that, their love for one another superseded the game.

I love this game.

I am grateful for the new season to learn how to love it in a new way.

In other words, the people playing, and not just the game being played.

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