By: Chris “Topher” Aderhold
We’re changing things up a bit this week, as I invite you to take a peek into how I spend some of my time during the winter months at Camp Gray. This is a story I just couldn’t resist sharing! Enjoy!
In the long history of the Tuesdays with Topher column, I can’t remember having a more difficult time writing a story. I suppose it’s fitting…
It started in the locker room following our sixth game of the season. The lady Raiders of St. Joseph Catholic School in Baraboo had just won their first basketball game of the season, and there I sat speechless. I was so proud of their effort, so proud of their hustle, and so proud of their teamwork. I just couldn’t find the words to say any of that.
My fourth season coaching the St. Joseph Raiders 5th & 6th grade basketball team recently concluded, and it was a season as unique as they come. Each season is unique, certainly. Making this season extra unique was that this year’s squad had only five girls.
“This is more than a basketball team. It’s a life team.” – Theresa “Mo-T” Wilks
For the three seasons prior, I was joined on the bench by longtime CG staffer Mo-T Wilks. Mo-T left Camp to join a convent in September, so current CG staffer Colleen Dunn helped keep me company on the bench this season (which was crucial, because with no subs to join me, it would have been a lonely place otherwise). Colleen was also there in the clutch to provide audible words when I’d find myself without speech. I guess sometimes girls are better at talking.
When Mo-T was around, she liked to stress that the lessons learned from playing basketball for the Raiders translate to life. I think this is why I like sports so much. When I reflect on the lessons I learned playing sports as a child, I can see clearly how they’ve impacted my life to this day.
It’s just that, sometimes, the lessons can’t be learned when the coach can’t find the words to say. Why was I so speechless the night of that first win? Not simply because it was our first win. Naw, we’d won a game or two in years past. You see, that night, one of our girls couldn’t play because she was sick. We’d won a game or two in the past, we’d just never won with only four girls on the floor like we did that night. Four vs. Five. Trust me, you’d be speechless, too.
Like I said, that was just the beginning. There were dozens of moments throughout this season that left me speechless (and a few that might have even left Colleen speechless, too). They’re moments that I won’t soon forget.
For example, later, in that same locker room, when I’d finally found my voice, Morgan asked us how many rebounds she’d collected. I’d challenged her to get 12. She tallied 16. I thought she’d be thrilled with accomplishing such a tall order. She was not thrilled. Secretly she’d challenged herself to 20 rebounds, because 12 wasn’t a lofty enough goal. A nod and a smile were all I could muster.
I found myself without speech a few games later during halftime. Just before the halftime buzzer, Dani launched a shot from a step inside the 3-point line. Time slowed down as the ball traveled through the air and then… Swish! The St. Joseph faithful cheered, Dani sprinted into the stands to get a hug from her folks, and I once again had no words.
Watching our defensive specialist, Cece, relentlessly hound our opponents for forty minutes, all while barely breathing hard, left me speechless each and every game. I think a big reason for this was because I was exhausted for her. It can be difficult to speak when one has no oxygen. Benjamin Franklin’s quote could have been, “Nothing is certain but death, taxes, and 5 steals a game by Cece.”
During my first season coaching the Raiders, we were short on players, so we recruited a couple third and fourth graders to play with our 5th and 6th graders. One of those third graders was Malea, making this season her fourth season as a Raider. Her vast improvement from that first season to now is remarkable. Every time she’d make a bucket this season (which was often), words escaped me once again, and a fist pump and smile had to suffice.
Then there was this moment, from our final game of the season: We were trailing the best team in the league by six points with four minutes to play. A timeout was called to draw up a new play in the hopes that we could get a few quick buckets. After the play was drawn up, I looked up from the marker board, and Ashley said, “Let’s call this play Mo-T.” The girls then went out and ran “Mo-T” to perfection three straight times to tie the game and send it to overtime. I couldn’t speak for a week.
I don’t know how it started, but before and after each game, plus at the conclusion of halftime and every timeout, our five girls, and Colleen and I would flex our arms in a circle and chant, “1… 2… 3… Family.”
I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of the Lady Raider family (even if I’m not a lady). Thanks for an incredible season, ladies. It was a season of great perseverance, of great hustle, and of great teamwork. It was a season in which the Raiders rallied to win six of their last seven games to finish a respectable 6-6. Of course, winning is the cherry on top. The life lessons learned on the Lady Raiders life team are much more important; lessons that Colleen and I hope stick with our girls forever.
Thanks for reading!
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