Last spring, my mom and I came to Sarah’s school to see her be a cheerleader at the last basketball game of the year. Unfortunately, Sarah did not want to participate and screamed and cried the entire time. I felt bad for her that she wasn’t able to enjoy the festivities but my eyes were drawn to the court and I was transfixed to what I witnessed.
The city’s public high school varsity basketball team was our opponent for this last game. It was a big game. The stands were packed with parents from both teams. Our cheerleaders were lined up on one side of the court, the public high school varsity cheerleaders were on the other. Then the game started and it quickly became apparent what was happening and my heart melted.
The varsity players with all their talent showed such kindness to our autistic teens. They did not play with full intensity, but instead made it possible for our team to compete. One time our player stole the ball from their point guard and ran down the court with it…literally. In his excitement, he forgot to dribble the ball! The players on this varsity team could have easily dunked the ball or shot 3 pointers over and over again to drive up the score (and a few times they did make an amazing dunk or a far out 3 point shot, much to our kids’ delight), but mostly they came to play with the mindset of letting our players shine.
During the game my mom leaned over and jokingly whispered, “Wow, this varsity team isn’t very good!”
I laughed but I could not help the tears welling up in my eyes as I watched the game. What these young men were good at was making our kids feel like superstars. These 16-18 year old young men got it. In a day and age where selfishness is the norm, these high school students learned an important life lesson. It wasn’t about competition, but compassion. It wasn’t about trying to impress the crowd with their amazing ability, but making a lasting impression on kids who looked up to them. It was about giving joy to others and seeking nothing in return. I will never forget the look of pure happiness on our kids’ faces when they received high fives from these players, their heroes, when they scored a basket.
All throughout the game both cheerleaders were yelling out their cheers. When our autistic kids scored a basket, I saw the other team’s varsity cheerleaders wildly celebrate. Curious, I then listened to them cheer and realized they were cheering “Go Broncos!” in all their cheers.
That isn’t their school’s mascot…it’s ours.
I have been told that in all of these years of this big match up between our two schools, the varsity team has yet to win a game against us. I find that hard to believe because they are all winners to me!
Ephesians 4:32a, “Be kind and compassionate to one another.”