Before heading out of town for what promises to be a great Thanksgiving week “back home” in Charleston, SC – we spent a busy 4 days helping to host the annual Houston Christian girls basketball tournament. My volunteer responsibility was to operate the clock at scoreboard for about a dozen games. I got to see a lot of basketball – some good, some not so good and some absolutely awful.
As much as I enjoy watching our team play my highlight moment came following a “third place” game with Milburn Academy.
The six Milburn girls were overmatched much of the tournament. Their volunteer coach did the best she could but it was evident that the players had little experience, lacked discipline and varied greatly in athletic ability. It was equally evident that the girls come from tough “off-court” family situations. Tattoos and babies in the stand were testimonies to lives very different than most of the private schools teams participating in the tournament. Earlier in the week I had toured the Alief section of Houston with some Young Life leaders – a stark reminder that gangs and drugs are a very real dangerous part of Houston and a regular part of the Milburn team’s world.
As the final seconds of the game wound down I was asked to select a Milburn player to award a trophy as her teams MVP. I chose number 3, Octavia. She wasn’t the high scorer but she played with a passion and intensity that set her apart from the rest of the team.
After the post-game handshakes our head coach, one of the refs and I presented Octavia with her trophy – she was speechless and I realized that this was likely the first time Octavia had ever been awarded a trophy or an award for anything in her life.
We too often take that sort of recognition for granted. Many of our daughters collect those sorts of trophies and awards and they fill the walls and shelves of their rooms. This was Octavia’s first and it might well be her only – I don’t get a sense that trophies are handed out on a regular basis in her world.
The Houston Christian Mustangs lost to Concordia Lutheran in the championship game. But for me the highlight of the weekend and the memory I will carry with me for a long time is Octavia’s face as she held her trophy. Her joy was a great reminder of what sports can be about and the power of recognition.
So here’s a challenge for this week of Thanksgiving – Who can I recognize that too often goes unappreciated?