Letter from a Griffin Senior Athlete

contributed by Academy Senior A.J. Jackson

During Games 3 through 5 of the 2014 NBA Finals the San Antonio Spurs torched the defending champions, the Miami Heat. Analysts often cite it as the most efficient offensive stretch by any team in NBA history, all coming against the league’s best defense. Most would argue the Spurs did not have one player better than the Heat’s top two stars: Lebron James and Dwyane Wade. To counter this defensive talent, Coach Popovich implemented a simple motto in the Spurs locker room – “Point 5.” The concept was you had .5 seconds to decide to shoot, pass, or drive. If a Spur had a good shot available, they were told to give it up to a more open teammate. In the words of Coach Pop, “I have a good shot, you have a great shot.” This idea of sharing the basketball combined with controlled passion and discipline led the Spurs to dominate the series, winning their 5th championship.

It is no surprise that our own Coach MAC, a San Antonio native, would like to think of himself as a Gregg Popovich prodigy. In all our drills we emphasize communication, moving the ball, making plays for our teammates, and did I mention communicating? Even on the bench we are told to always be talking, celebrating for great plays, correcting the bad ones, and setting up our team for success even when not on the floor. Fundamentals are everything to his athletic program, as demonstrated in our Core Athletic Values: Unity, Passion, Discipline, Humility, and Servanthood.

Over the two years I have played Academy basketball for the Rhetoric team, I have seen these values play out in our success on the court. In just our second year as a program we have a 17-3 record heading into our last few games before the playoffs. Our offense has been fast paced resulting in many open shots, a few makes, and plenty of celebrating! But what really makes this kind of basketball come to life? The Spurs are often mocked for “stealing the souls” of their players for the sake of basketball success. However, at the end of the day the Spurs are a business emphasizing corporate success.

That does not always work as well at the high school level. Players, especially most teens, find it hard to make the fundamental play only for the sake of making a fundamental play. Our core values are fantastic, but they must be rooted in something deeper. This is where The Academy culture thrives and where I believe we find our ultimate core value: Family. Coach MAC even told me one time the reason he was so drawn to The Academy was because of the community he saw in our school. This kind of community is emulated as much on the hardwood of FBC’s 3rd floor as anywhere.

We try to make the right basketball play for our teammates, but that is irrelevant if we are not doing it because we legitimately love our teammates. It would be easy to fake being a good teammate for the sake of playing time, yet I can honestly say that is not an issue on our team. I do not credit this to the 11 players themselves, but the mentors that have poured into them over the years. Our teachers have preached time and again Jesus’ second greatest commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself.” The Academy’s athletic program has grown so rapidly due to the family-like nature of our teams. This unconditional love is what drives those fundamental drills, those bench celebrations, and those hilarious bus rides home from Tulsa.

Just like all families, it is not all glitz and glamour. We have tough practices. Guys have tough games. It is easy to yell, blame others, and become frustrated. Basketball is a competitive game, and all our athletes are competitive. However, we understand that we are family, and our sibling rivalries never last more than a few moments. We stress the importance of being there for each other in the locker room, at our postgame meals, at school the next day, and so on. When one of us triumphs we all triumph, and when one of us suffers we all suffer and try to pick them up. And that is what makes sports fun! Individual achievements might feel great in the moment, but they will never outlast the bonds formed with teammates.

So, I encourage both current and future Griffin athletes to buy in. Become part of this family if you are not part of it already. Success is not measured in wins, points, rebounds, shooting percentages, personal goals, or even how disciplined or passionate we are on the floor. Those things are only valuable as they reflect the true reasoning behind success – and that is your family, your teammates. Your success is entirely dependent on them, and as such, they must be able to depend on you. Let us not lose sight of these values in our endeavor to create a great athletics program. We must not allow our desire to win rid us of the very thing our winning depends on. It is easy to fall into this trap in high school sports, but I will say it is much harder in a community like the Griffins!

Read more about our senior athletes in this week’s athletic report, and don’t miss senior night tonight at our Midtown Campus!