When I was in 4th grade, we had a ringer on our softball team. Her name was Alexia Cruz. Our strategy was to try and load the bases the best that we could and Alexia would come in as clean up. She would rocket that ball, flying past second base, soaring over the head of the center fielder, and landing oftentimes in the woods. With those easy runs scored, the team would erupt in exultation, dancing and cheering, as we celebrated yet another win. Alexia went on to an illustrious high school and collegiate athletic career, earning eight varsity letters and captaining Harvard’s track and field team in the early 1990s. However, I digress. All this is to say that the 3rd/4th grade girls team that St. George put up for the annual Mussel Ridge Basketball Tournament this year did not have an Alexia Cruz. What they did have was a group of young girls with tremendous courage and fortitude, exemplifying perseverance.
St. George MSU has embraced expeditionary learning and thus one of our foci is character development. Students and teachers are engaged in discussions and activities that center on habits of success. St. George has defined those as safety, respect, responsibility, perseverance and collaboration. Students reflect frequently on those qualities and they are part of each trimester’s report card.
Perseverance. A quick google search gives the definition as “persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.” The Bouncing Dragons’ season started with a rudimentary understanding of basketball. Only two girls had played on the team last year, so for most everything was new. Dribbling, passing, shooting, defense, offense—all of these things took time, explanation and practice. Lots of practice.
Throughout the season, these girls grew as basketball players. The Mussel Ridge Tournament asked the girls to face off against teams from Camden and Rockland. Despite all their hard work, the girls lost both of their games, 41-4 and 40-2. But it is not the losses or scores that one needs to focus on. For those not able to make it to the games this past March, what you would have seen was a team full of energy and drive, resilience and determination. They ran the court, played hard defense and put up shots. They communicated with their teammates and supported one another. And they had fun.
When a foul shot was sunk, scoring the first point of the second game, the crowd erupted in cheers—startling the player and making her break out in a huge smile. Until the last minute, those girls defended against shots and ran the court with conviction. The girls’ grit and perseverance won the respect of the crowd.
When the final game was over, several of the girls asked if they would have time to do some more drills. They gathered in the hallway as the boys warmed up for their game. Clapping and cheering, the girls did their celebratory dance party, calling each girl into the circle to do a signature move. They closed with their chant, “Let’s have fun! Goooooooo Dragons!”
Learning is often measured by one’s ability to transfer skills to new environments and challenges. As educators, we hope that the lessons students experience at St. George, both academic and character-building, stay with students and help them grow into happy and confident adults. With the myriad of challenges that life throws us, perseverance is a skill that can serve one well. The Mussel Ridge tournament was difficult. The girls did not win their games. But for anyone standing in the hallway that night, those girls were winners. These St. George Dragons were a shining example of perseverance and we hope that they will carry that skill beyond the walls of St. George School.
—Amy Hufnagel (Hufnagel is the behavior specialist at the St. George School. Her husband Joe, along with Angela Vachon and Shasta Minery have been coaching the Grade 3-4 girls basketball team.)
PHOTO: Shasta Minery