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We:30 Share & Tell: Travis Shares His Heart for Volunteering
Every Wednesday at 3:30 we gather to celebrate an employee who exemplifies our core values to inspire, share, evolve, exceed and be 100% jerk-free. In our Share & Tell edition, we invite the employee to share their unique story, or simply something that inspires them. This week Travis, Senior SEO Specialist, shares his heart for volunteering!
I love volunteering and working with kids. Below is a short story regarding one of my experiences:
A few years ago, I signed up for an immediate volunteer opening to coach a 5th/6th grade youth basketball team at the YMCA. The season was starting the next day, so that left me little time to prepare.
Prior to my first day of practice, I decided to scout out the other teams and learn from their coaching styles. Most of the kids knew each other and had a considerable amount of skill for that age. I overheard the parents discuss AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) leagues and tournaments that they had attended over the summer. Going into my first practice, I thought my players would have a similar experience and skillset. I was in for a rude awakening.
The first couple of practices were a disaster. Balls were flying everywhere, kids were crying or being uncooperative, and a few skinned their knees due to poor basketball mechanics. I envisioned the parents questioning why they signed their kids up for this team, including myself.
I quickly came to realize the challenge in front of me. My team included a kid that had Asperger’s, making it difficult for him to focus and follow directions. I had another player who received a suspension for spitting and getting into a fight with another student at his school. Not only had I never coached before, but I hadn’t dealt with extraneous basketball challenges like these before.
I crave challenges and took this volunteer position very seriously, but I felt like I was in over my head. So, prior to each practice, I spent my time watching YouTube videos, trying to remember drills from my high school experience, and working with my dad to learn different trainings and techniques. We even snuck in extra practices on the weekends. Over time the kids, parents and I developed a unique bond. We were better with each practice and were actually competing and improving with each game.
However, at the end of the season our record was at 0-8. We lost every game of the season and one team beat us by 40+ points. It was a tough season but our team was resilient. They continued to show up to practice with smiles and were happy to simply play the game of basketball and form friendships outside of school. Fortunately for us, every team made the playoffs. The playoffs were seeded based on the regular season record -- the team that lost the most games got the worst seed and was paired with the highest-winning team. In this case, it was the team that beat us by 40+ and had gone undefeated.
This was truly a David v. Goliath situation, but my guys were ready for the challenge. Up and down the court they played with passion, leaving everything they had on the court. However, with a few minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and the game tied, my guys were gassed. They had given their all and had nothing left in the tank. We ending up losing the game by a few points, and to tell you the truth I was bummed that we lost. But after the game I learned an important lesson. I looked at each kid’s face and they were smiling from ear to ear as if we had won the championship. The kids knew they had given the best team a run for their money. That day I learned that life is much more than winning -- it’s about character development when seasons are tough and being able to overcome those obstacles that would usually hold us back. The guys played their hearts out that game and reflecting back, I won something bigger than what the scoreboard told me.
The day after the loss, our team was placed in the consolation bracket for one last game. We won.