Many schools – the ones I’ve attended or worked at, at least – reward academic achievement, whether it’s an honor roll reception or a big year-end awards ceremony with accolades handed out for scholarships, straight A’s, or high test scores.

Rewarding academic prowess is great, but at Research Triangle we’ve tried to reward other positive qualities we’ve seen our students exhibit in addition to doing great in class.  Once a month, we gather all of our students in the gallery (something we won’t be able to do next year when we add over 100 new freshmen) to recognize students for not only academic achievement, but other qualities they’ve exhibited such as zest, curiosity, gratitude, social intelligence, improved work ethic, and perseverance.

As the athletic director, I know that perseverance has been a quality that our student-athletes must have at a first-year high school.  Our cross country team was incredibly successful, but I knew that was probably going to end up being an anomaly; brand new high school sports teams just aren’t supposed to be good at much.  When I was at Robinson, it took some of the sports teams several years to get off the mat, and they had over 1,500 students to pull from.

Perseverance would definitely be needed as we began play in our first-ever holiday tournament yesterday – a tournament just for JV teams in Asheboro.  Since we only have freshmen, we thought this would be a good opportunity to play teams more on our level instead of getting drilled on a regular basis by varsity squads who have guards taller than our center.

The girls’ game got underway yesterday afternoon with our only five players on the court – everyone else was indisposed due to the holidays.  From the first minute, it was pretty apparent that things were going to go badly; among the missing players were virtually all the guards, so just getting the ball up the court was proving difficult.  We trailed 12-2 after the first quarter and 28-2 at the half.  A 16-point deficit at the half is not insurmountable in most cases, but everyone at the game – including the players – seemed to know that just making it to double digits would be an accomplishment.

It’s here that perseverance is really put to the test.  Sixteen more minutes of basketball to play, virtually no chance of winning, and no subs on the bench.  Packing it in and just running out the clock is easy.  But that’s not what most of our students do, and that’s not what the girls on the floor did.

Sierra Street, who also scored the team’s only bucket in the first half, added a basket in the 3rd quarter, but the scoreboard remained stuck there through the rest of the 3rd and into the 4th.  With two minutes remaining, we trailed 46-4.  I was sitting in the stands across from our bench, wondering how I was going to tweet this score to the people to whom I’d promised updates.  With about a minute and a half to go, Nikki Khoshnoodi got free with the ball near the top of the key and knocked down a three to pull us within 39 points – the comeback was on!  After a defensive stop, Katie Dixon knocked down another three pointer.  For the first time, the tens digit on the scoreboard lit up.  The final score: Chatham Central 46, Research Triangle 10.  That looks a hell of a lot better than 46-4, or even 46-7.  I can tweet 46-10.

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I intercepted Nikki and Katie as they were walking toward the locker room.  “Where was that the first 30 minutes of the game?” I joked as I high-fived them.  The Chatham Central coach was standing in the tunnel as we got there, and he was heaping on the praise.  “You guys played so hard,” he was telling our girls.  “It’s so tough to play an entire game, and you really kept after it.”  He went on to say that our girls did a lot of positive things and, if they keep working as hard as they did during the game, they’ll surely improve.

I doubt an athletic director has ever been as proud after a 36-point beating as I was at that moment.  Our girls worked hard and persevered, and other people noticed.  One of these days we’ll persevere and win, but I’ll take this for now.

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