With the legendary UCLA Coach John Wooden’s passing on Friday night, it was what I witnessed on Saturday that reminded me of the real meaning of sports.
Wooden not only built a winning program for the Bruins, but he built better people out of those players that went through his program.
Bill Walton, who played under Wooden, recounted the story of one of his first practices with Wooden, demonstrates this.
Walton said that Wooden kicked him out of practice, telling him in the process not to return to the program until he go a haircut. This is a far cry from the game of today of people having tattoos up and down their bodies, wacky haircuts ranging from mohawks to the rainbow from Dennis Rodman, and most of all the players that are all about themselves, rather than that of the team.
The biggest thing that Wooden demanded was that his players played hard, showed sportsmanship, and most of all, play as a team.
Flash forward to today, as I was helping referee games in a tournament put on by the University of South Carolina, girls high school basketball teams from around the south came to participate.
The most meaningful game to me however was not the game I gave a coach a technical, or the one that went to overtime. The biggest game was not even close.
I’m not going to mention the teams specifically, because it does not pertain to the story. All I will describe them as a out-of-state elite team and a high school varsity that also had to travel to Columbia.
The elite team got out to a 69-0 team (I’m not making this up). With about 2 minutes to go in the game, the high school team got a lay-up, giving them their first basket of the game.
The final score to the game was 73-4, but the score is not important in what I took from this game.
Both times when the weaker team scored, the Blatt PE Center erupted, a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life.
The winning team, their parents, and a couple other teams waiting to play all gave the team a standing ovation.
What this sports talk radio host and part-time basketball official hopes that both teams took away is that you never give up, regardless of how down you can be.
The players may not have felt this way, but this by far is something that builds character, and I hope that team goes on to have a great season.
They are winners in my book, and its about building character and team cohesion, something that helped John Wooden dominate college basketball for over a decade.