Leaders Like You

by Kerri Silverthorn   |   Thu, Mar 29th, 2018

Last night's Rockets game was something unforgettable for me. It was an experience where I was able to be in the moment and enjoy the fellowship of my teammates that came together from all walks of life.

Over the past few months, TuscBDD planned many activities and events for National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. It has been an honor to advocate and participate in so many activities and events that were designed to celebrate the abilities of the people that we serve. As the month comes to a close, I am left impacted by not only the entire month but firmly from one of our last events. 

Last night's Rockets game was something unforgettable for me.

It was an experience where I was able to be in the moment and enjoy the fellowship of my teammates that came together from all walks of life.

The compassionate leadership that I saw from the Rockets players left a heavy impression on me. I walked away from that game wishing that we had more leaders like those players because they fiercely support each other.

I like to watch sports, and I can play a little for fun; however, I am definitely not athletic. I didn't let my lack of athleticism stop me from signing up to participate in this fellowship basketball game. As the game was soon to get started, buzzers were sounding, coaches were coaching, and players were warming up. At this point a wave of reality set in, and I became terrified that I might fall down or get hurt. Did I mention that I am extremely clumsy? Well, I am! At this time, Liz took charge of my team (maroon). Liz indicated that she wanted the team to start stretching. She led the entire team through a series of warm-up stretches. She ordered people to pay attention and get stretching. I was impressed with how she helped the team get ready so that we wouldn't get hurt on the court. This activity and Liz's insistence that this was mandatory before we started playing helped quell my fears for a short while, that is, until we were benched and the coaches started pulling players to the court.

Watching these athletes storm down the court with intensity was exciting to witness from the bench, but I knew that I couldn't run fast and that I might become disoriented easily. As I sat watching, another team member expressed that she had the same fear as me. In that moment of panic, Liz looked at both of us, patted us on the back and said it would be okay. She said that we could do it! Thanks to Liz, I was starting to overcome my fear and believe that I would survive being on the court in this game.

A few moments later, Coach Ashley instructed me to check in and get ready to go to the court with the next round of players. As I ran onto the court, the fear melted away and a giant grin smothered my face. I was running and following suit with my teammates. I was having a lot of fun! As we made it toward our end of the court, Matthew had the ball and passed it to me with confidence. This was my chance. I caught the ball and held it steady with both hands. It was all in slow motion as I shot the ball out of my hands and hurled it toward the hoop. Somehow the ball went into the net, and I scored! Victory! I looked up to the stands and threw my fists in the air. It was so exciting. My teammates had so much faith in me!

Later on the court, Matthew had the ball. He was extremely skilled and ran from end to end of the court with great intensity. He could make the basket nearly every time that he tried. He could turn and twist and do all kinds of crazy, fancy dribbles. It was pretty cool to see the skills of these athletes, but that wasn't all they had. These players had heart. They fiercely supported each other, and they displayed unyielding sportsmanship and leadership for everyone in the game.

Again, Matthew got the ball and passed it off to Liz. She shot. She missed. Matthew did this six times in a row. He never gave up on her. He passed the ball to her with certainty and immediately blocked other players from getting the ball from her. She kept shooting. She kept missing. But he persisted and continued to pass the ball to Liz. He didn't give up and knew she could make it. Matthew passed the ball to Liz. She shot. She scored, and the crowd went wild. The bleachers were buzzing with enthusiasm. There was clapping, screaming, and cheering. What I saw on that court was compassionate leadership and sportsmanship like no other. Leadership doesn't come from a "cookie cutter." It doesn't look the same every time. It isn't always the person with the most money or the person that is best dressed. It comes from the people that quietly help others. It comes from the people who cheer on their new friends. It comes from the people who fiercely support each other. It comes from the people who believe in others, pass the ball, and never give up.

I challenge you to look for the compassionate leaders around you. Find the people who choose to believe in others. Find the people who work as a team even when it is hard because it benefits everyone. Find the people who do not give up on others when it would be easier to do so. Find the people who use their strengths to lift others up. Those are the people who are leaders. And those are the leaders that we should all aspire to be like. If we can help just one person feel valued or confident, then we have moved a mountain for that person. That is what I saw these players doing for one another last night.

Dear Rockets, I want to be a leader like you. I want to lead how you lead. I want to always remember: Believe in others, pass the ball, and never give up.    ~Kerri Silverthorn

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Kerri Silverthorn Thu, Mar 29th, 2018