It's How You Play the Game
Polished wood floors, the clock ticking down, players trying to anticipate their opponent’s next move, watchful referees and the bounce, bounce, bounce of a basketball. During Walla Walla University’s annual Friendship Tournament, Upper Columbia Academy’s men’s and women’s basketball teams demonstrated that it’s not just about the final score.
Along with teams from 10 other academies, UCA’s basketball teams spent some time on the court instead of enjoying homeleave, an extended weekend break that enables UCA students from further distances to go home. According to John Willis, women’s basketball coach, the value of participating in this event is learning to compete in a positive environment. “Making friends and learning how to be a good sport and exemplifying a Christ-like behavior on and off the court are the focus at the tournament,” he said.
Demonstrating their understanding of treating other people with care and respect, UCA students decided to be the cheering section for the teams from Forest Lake Academy in Florida. Due to the distance they traveled, Forest Lake didn’t have the number of supporters that most teams at the tournament. UCA students took note and filled in the gap, offering their support to people they had just recently met.
Proving that it’s not about winning or losing but how you play the game, both UCA teams were awarded the Sportsmanship Award for the tournament. In fact, in the last eight years, UCA has brought home the award five times. John Soule, men’s basketball coach, said, “As a Christian coach, these awards are the highest praise. The game should never be more important than people. And receiving these awards speaks to the quality students we’re privileged to work with.” Willis concurs. “I’m very proud that our students have embraced the idea that sportsmanship is important, an integral part of who they are as a person," he said. "Sportsmanship and giving your best is the most important aspect of why we play.”
UCA is committed to providing opportunities for their students to fully develop their minds, their talents and their characters. And this year’s Friendship Tournament was one of those opportunities. So what was the lesson learned? That you always try your best; that you play fairly; that you respect the game, the officials and the other team. When you do that, you can leave with your head held high, regardless of the outcome. It turns out that’s an excellent life lesson as well.