Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sam and the girls

"Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there." John Wooden

A FEW MONTHS ago Sam Powell, coach of the East High Scarlet girls' basketball team, spoke to my club, The Rotary Club of Des MoinesI don't know how the man does it. He has a full-time job as a parole and probation officer, and he coaches the girls' basketball team. 

When Sam gave his talk, there were two of his team members, Shareece Burrell and Tal Neilly, assisting him. I was impressed by how "on it" they were in their supporting roles, standing at attention, performing each little movement with exact precision. 

East didn't go on this year to equal their 2010 - 2011 4-A state tournament championship or their 2009 - 2010 second place finish, but I wanted to let the girls know that I'd noticed them being careful to do everything just right in helping Sam and representing East, and that counts even if you don't get the big trophy. 

Although I'm not aware of Shareece's or Tal's personal circumstances, it's safe to say that many students at East have challenges that students from other schools don't face, and often lack the familial and financial resources others have. I got them $25 dollar gift certificates from Kohl's as "atta' girls" — a small way of letting them know that doing their best moment to moment, day after day adds up even if it doesn't seem like it at the time. People do notice.

It took Sam and me a couple of months to coordinate the four schedules, but I was finally able to give them their gift certificates last week. Sam was gracious enough to take more than an hour out of his extra busy day in order to be at school with me to meet the girls.

In chatting with Sam, I learned more about his over-scheduled schedule and his commitment. The team actually plays more games in the summer at tournaments and basketball camps than they do during the school year. If anything, Sam is busier in what I would have previously thought to be his "off" season. He organizes and hosts one of the biggest tournaments himself and arranges shift work at the concession stands for his team members in order to give them the opportunity to earn the money they need to pay the participation fees for summer basketball activities.

It was fun to finally be able to give Shareece and Tal their gifts. What lively, happy girls. I wanted them to know that striving to do the best job they can even in the small moments counts.

Coach Sam Powell and player Shronda Butts celebrating
East High's 2011 4-A state championship victory.

Sam was named Metro Coach of the year for 2010 -2011 season.

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