Directly in front of me stood a circle of fifteen girls. Each one a Novi High School student. Each one a member of the Novi High School volleyball team.
Now the team stood, arms encircled one another. Heartbroken. Tears filled their eyes.
Just minutes before these Novi High School volleyball players had lost in the 5th and deciding set of the Michigan High School Athletic Association state championship game. Down two sets to none, these girls won two sets in a row to force the fifth and deciding set.
Just a night before the girls had found themselves in the same situation. Down two sets to none, they faced the task of winning three straight sets if they wanted to advance. Amazingly, thrillingly they did.
Then less than twenty-four hours later, they faced the same situation. And it appeared they might pull it off one more time.
But they didn't.
And now, in front of me, I saw a team smiling, crying, holding on to each other.
They were not champions. Instead they finished second.
The point of sports is to win. In our society finishing second is frowned upon. Champions are celebrated. Those that finish second are forgotten.
But I am here to suggest that the point of high school sports is about more than winning.
Every team wants to win. Every coach wants to win. The sacrifice, the sweat, the time is all given in an effort to win.
Winning is the point.
But, in high school, I would submit that the point of athletics is winning plus . . .
Plus helping our students build character.
Plus developing tenacity, grit, and perseverance.
Plus building an understanding in our students of how to depend on teammates and how to be a teammate.
Plus creating in our students deeply passionate connections with others.
Plus learning how to support others with your presence, with your voice, with your talent.
Plus learning what it takes to grow, improve, and develop talent.
These young ladies wanted to win. They did everything they could to finish as champions.
But, my guess is, these young ladies will remember the lessons that they learned that go beyond winning.
Even though they finished second.