I would like to share with you one last group of memories of my time with the basketball program at Sunrise Christian Academy.
- I will tell you how it all started-how I became the boys’ biggest fan. One day in the fall of 2014, I looked at the boys in my class who were basketball players, and I thought how, right or wrong, basketball was the most important thing in their lives. I also thought how their parents were all at least a thousand miles away so unable to watch their sons play. That weekend there was going to be a tournament at Campus High School which was only 5-minutes from my house, so I decided to attend. I spent Saturday dashing back & forth between games getting my wash done for the week, but it was worth it. Then, Monday morning in class, one of the players, GJ, said to me, “Miss Richards, thank you for coming to my games Saturday. You know my mom can’t be here, but it was almost like she was, knowing that you were there to watch me play.” From that day forward, I never missed a game if there was any way for me to be there. Chicago, Ft. Lauderdale, Kansas City, Pratt, Grand Island- I was there. I grew to love it, but it was always especially for the boys whose parents couldn’t be there.
- That same young man told me another Monday morning, “Miss Richards, you made it hard on us this morning!” I honestly had no idea what he was talking about and asked, “Who? Me? What did I do?” Then, the story came out. I’d shared with their coach on Friday that the group of players were not only talking in class, they were distracting others. He said that he’d take care of it, and he did. That Monday morning, he’d taken the talkers to Wichita State University, and they’d had to do laps up and down the bleachers! They were slightly slow learners, and on another day after another incident, one of them asked me, “Miss Richards, do you have to tell Coach everything that goes on in this class?” I responded, “It depends on the day; it depends on the day.” LOL!
- Then, I can’t help but remember the day that I sat with two players and talked about the sign that I had on my bulletin board which read, “God is the only reason that I’ve made it this far.” I shared with them my testimony, and one of them shared how it was true for him, too, because his mother had told him how he had almost died as a toddler, but God saved him. And that reminds me also, of the very first class that I had, and we read together Pistol Pete Maravich’s autobiography. We got behind and did not finish the book, so on the last day I showed them a video of Pete sharing his testimony of how he made it to the NBA and got his gold ring, but still his life was empty. That was when, 17 years after someone had shared the plan of salvation with him, he got down on his knees and gave his life to Christ. He explained very clearly what he needed to do and the difference that it had made in his life. To my knowledge, those four young men are still not believers, but I pray that even if it takes 17 years, or longer, that they will one day remember Pete’s testimony and do what he did.
- Then there was the time that I arrived at school very early, as usual. It was about 6am and still dark. I parked behind what we called the 800-building. As I got out of my car, I could hear boys’ voices over in the fields near me, but it was too dark to see who it was or what they were doing. It frightened me a bit because our superintendent had been telling us in faculty meeting that very often people were trying to break into our buildings. I ran for the building door and my classroom, and locked myself in. Later in the day, I said to one of the players when he came to class, “I really needed you for protection this morning!” I told him what had happened, and he started laughing. “Miss Richards, that was us! We were running laps over on the softball field!” That was also the time that I began to learn that our basketball players very often had early morning workouts and training! When they came in the front door of the school at 7:55am, that was NOT their first trip to school that morning!
There are so many more memories, but I am going to bring this series to a close. It is good to remember, but there is also a time that it is time to move on. The Lord has called me to a new place and ministry. I am still in touch with many of those young men, and they continue to bless my lives, but now it is time to make new memories.