Our annual Upper School Athletics Banquet always seems to validate for me how impacting co-curricular activities are for personal development and growth.  From coaches to students, each speaker seems to echo the same sentiment within the story of his or her team.

Coach Pancoski, our Varsity Boys’ Basketball head coach, is passionate about teaching his team beyond the hardwood.  He gave an abbreviated speech at the banquet, and I sought his permission (permission granted!) to share in this forum his full text on this subject:

“At last year’s sports banquet, I spoke about resilience and how that team exhibited qualities that allowed them to bounce back from the adversities they encountered.  This year’s team experienced learning through failure.  By all accounts, this team experienced failures.  The majority of our games ended in a loss but, through those losses, our players experienced the positive value of failure and why it is truly the only way to succeed in the game and beyond.

The author, Jon Gordon, wrote that ‘Failure is not your enemy.  It is your partner in growth.  It doesn’t define you; it redefines you.  If you didn’t fail, you wouldn’t build the character you need to succeed.’  High school basketball can be a perfect venue to learn from mistakes, to develop a sense of responsibility, to learn how to communicate with adults, and to practice conflict resolution.  If approached with the proper attitude, the lessons to be learned from a long losing season can be beneficial to the players for a lifetime.

The courage developed by the players who experience adversity and struggles during a long losing season but still battle every game despite the odds is the same courage that will help them in a particularly challenging college curriculum and later, in a demanding occupation.  The courage that these eight players exhibited during the course of this season did not go unnoticed by the other coaches in our league as they honored our team with the MAC Sportsmanship Team of the Year Award.”

Additionally, I was inspired hearing our Varsity Girls’ Basketball team senior captain, Sara S. ’17, reflect on her team’s season and the lessons she learned.  She chose to share with banquet guests a halftime speech given by her coach, John Martin.

“Girls, we’re all different,” Martin had said to the players.  “We’re all different colors; we come from different families, cultures, religions, and places.  But when we’re on the court, we’re all the same.  That is why I love sports — because we can be completely different but fighting for the same goal when we step into that gym.”

“And as for Coach G.,” Sara said, “I won’t forget the way she constantly pushed us on respect and mutual understanding, and how what we say and do affects the team.  This is a lesson to take with you in all areas of life: thinking before you speak/act.  I want to thank not only my teammates for giving me three strong years of basketball here at this school but also my coaches for providing me with important life lessons that ironically had nothing to do with a ball and a hoop.”

This is the reason I love what I do, too — because I help facilitate the experiences and connections that in turn, create the countless stories and lessons that will last a lifetime.

Learn more about Harrisburg Academy on our school website.