Sharing God Makes the Difference for RVAA Girls' Team

August 20, 2016 | Cynthia Ward

The basketball season for high school starts way before the school year begins. There are summer practices, summer basketball camp, and maybe even a tournament or two to keep the players conditioned.

This year was no different at Rogue Valley Adventist Academy in Medford. It was a season where there were more girls then the usual seven as teammates begged friends to join. In fact, this year there was a whopping 11 girls. There were two freshman girls Savanah and Charleze; three sophomore girls Gabby, Analise and Rose; three juniors Katy, Priscilla and Hannah; and three senior girls, Ashton, Claudia and Carli.

Now to say we have had a rich history of outstanding girls’ basketball teams, would be very short of the truth. Our girls have worked hard, but usually fall a bit short of successful. This season would change all of that.

Mike Glasgow, RVAA athletic director, begins each high school basketball season with a spiritual bonding retreat on the Oregon Coast. This year, as in years past, the teams picked their bible verse for the season and set personal and group goals. As a team, the girls decided they were tired of always losing and made the conscious decision to make changes and really work together as a team. Through this process the girls decided to step up their spiritual presence and established the team goal of praying with each team they played at the end of each game.

They began their season with a tournament at Pacific Union College in Angwin, Calif. Being deliberate about working together as a team, they actually made it to the playoff round. This was a huge boost to their morale as they begin their regular playing season.

As part of the local sports association, Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA), not all the teams they would play are from Christian schools. After winning their first game of the season, the RVAA girls felt a bit awkward approaching the other girls and asking if they would like to pray with them. To their surprise, the other team responded in a positive manner. The girls made a circle in the middle of the gym, joined hands and said a simple prayer.

As the season continued, the surprise for the girls was how much more they grew in their own spiritual walk. They took their commitment to each other seriously, and each girl felt her being on the team was as important as the person working next to her. Even if they might have spent most games sitting on the bench, each girl worked hard at practice to help the starting players play their best and gave encouragement from the bench during the game.

By the time the Lady Hawks had played each team at least once, they were pleasantly surprised when, at the end of a game, the other team was waiting expectantly for the prayer time. Another interesting side effect of praying with the other teams was a change in attitude of the other girls; they seemed kinder during the games, and there was not as much use of bad language or unsportsmanlike behavior. Girls were asking about Jesus, and some felt more comfortable sharing their Christian values.

Some might think the perfect ending to this season would be if the Lady Hawks made it all the way to the state championship tournament and won first place. But for this team the perfect season was accomplishing all the goals they had set out for themselves: praying with each willing team, making it to the district playoffs and going to the state tournament.

Did they accomplish all those goals? Yes, and to watch as these girls joined hands with another team in the center of the gym, during the Oregon State 1A Championship Tournament, and bow their heads in prayer was an awesome sight to see. They placed fourth in the state and were also given the Sportsmanship Award — an achievement that made their coach, Marlene Slagle, so proud.

As the season came to an end, each girl had experienced a moment in which Christ was more real to her than ever before. For these girls, making this one change — to actively share their love of God — made all the difference.