Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Youth Sports and Life Lessons

PCS Girls Basketball Team 2014-15
Our culture is consumed with sports and it starts so young.  Many parents push their kids nearly to a breaking point, as if life depended on athletic prowess.  You've heard the statement, "Its not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game."  Another guy said, "Winning isn't everything, its the only thing."  In the end, the object of the game is to win. But there is more to it than that.

Recent sports stories tell of a Little League baseball team accused of violations in the LLWS, a high school coach suspended for humiliating opponents by running up the score and two high school teams actually trying to lose. Reading these sorts of stories is pretty unsettling.  However, there are many inspiring stories that often occur in relative obscurity.

My daughter's high school basketball team just finished the season...with 1 win.  By all accounts they did not achieve success. Of course, it depends on how success is measured.  Her team only had 5 players.  They worked hard. They never stopped hustling. I believe they learned some important life lessons.  That is one of the goals of youth sports after all.

I was encouraged yesterday to read an article written by a coach who faced our team late in the season. Our team inspired him.  There's no live link currently to his article, although it is supposed to appear soon in a local paper. You can read it below.  I'm proud of my kid. Not because of her personal achievements, but because she is a genuine blessing in my life. Among other things, God is using her to shape me. She's part of my life lessons.

The Portland Five
 Cadiz, KY - What a winter we have had this year. The snow storm of 2015 was one that we will remember. There is something else I will remember about the winter of 2015 and that is the Portland Five. I know what you are thinking. What is the Portland Five? Actually the question should be who is the Portland Five. Sit back and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate while we are blanketed with another deep snow as I introduce them to you.
This past winter I had the opportunity to take my girls’ basketball team to Louisville to play in the Portland Christian High School Christmas tournament. Portland is one of the oldest Christian schools in the state of Kentucky.  Portland Christian has just over 400 students in kindergarten through twelfth grade. Their high school has just over 120 students.
The first thing that stood out about the school was their athletic director Rick Folden. Mr. Rick is a retired coach who now serves as the AD. Rick just seemed to be a fellow that probably had a treasure chest full of stories from his lifetime spent in athletics. He was as personable as anybody we ran into across the state this year. He also served as a great host for their Christmas Tournament. The hospitality started when he had someone meet our bus on the street and usher us into the parking lot. The tournament that he ran was simply first class.
Later on in January the Portland Christian team made a swing through western Kentucky. They stopped in on a Saturday afternoon to play us. We didn’t face their team in the Christmas tournament so this was the first time we had seen them play. This is also where the story really gets fascinating. The Portland team only had five girls. They were senior Kayla Niestadt, junior Sunny Jin, sophomore Emily Scott and freshman Hannah Taylor and Lydia Cyrus. They did not have any substitutes. As a matter of fact Sunny Jin was a foreign exchange student from China. It took her for them to have enough girls to play.
Tim Taylor served as the team's coach. Coach Taylor is the father of freshman Hannah Taylor. Coach Taylor coached the Portland Five for the entire season for a total salary of NOTHING. You see, Portland Christian is the only KHSAA high school that does not pay their coaches. Taylor simply donated his time and no telling how much of his own funds so Portland Christian could have a team and a season.
Now let’s get back to the team only having five girls. Coach Taylor said it was really tough to practice because there was no opposition to go against. He said, “We had to stress fundamentals and get really creative with our drills.” Taylor also said that they did not have a girl foul out all season so they never dipped below five players. In other words every one of their players played every minute of the season.
After our game with Portland in January we invited the team to the Cadiz Restaurant for a late afternoon meal. As the sun began to set on that winter day, five of our players sat across from their five players. The girls swapped stories and exchanged cultures you might say. The Portland girls talked about living in the city while our girls told stories from the countryside. The Portland girls had lots of questions about the abundance of pigs lining Main Street. This led to our own junior player Taylor Gray giving the city girls a lesson about country hams. It was nothing short of awesome to watch Taylor take the girls through the process of curing a ham and explain why the pig is so important to Trigg County. In return Sunny Jin talked about her homeland of China and explained how she wants to return and work on major environmental issues facing her country.
As you might imagine Portland struggled on the court this season with only five girls. The Portland girls were winless as they approached the end of their season. Only a couple of games were left as St. Francis came to their gym for homecoming. Freshman Hannah Taylor scored 21 points as Portland got their only win of the season by a score of 40-25.
History will show that the Portland Christian girls’ basketball team finished their season with a record of 1-15.  An outsider might simply look at the numbers and gawk at their proclivity of losing. I say different. The Portland Five were a team of super young people full of heart, character and values. The Portland Five were not afraid or embarrassed to compete when they were severely undermanned. The Portland Five and their Coach Tim Taylor were not losers at all. Trust me on this, the Portland Five are winners. You see, while others sit on the sideline and watch life go by. The PORTLAND FIVE WERE IN THE GAME. Enthusiasm Makes the Difference,
Coach Mike Wright
OT: Coach Taylor is no stranger to athletics. His son Jonathan Taylor was the 3200 meter champ in the state of Kentucky a couple of years ago and now runs at Taylor University in Upland IN.

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