ONE GOOD THING | Davidson basketball's trip into tragedy
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – There is no requirement that a “good thing” also be a “happy thing.” Sometimes it is just the opposite.
Bob McKillop is the head basketball coach at Davidson College. We last saw him in these parts when his team faced the University of Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament last March. Last week, McKillop took to the Op-Ed page of The Washington Post to explain why he was taking his basketball team to Poland to visit Auschwitz.
“The volatility of our world right now requires a response informed by both a respect for human dignity and an understanding of what happens in its absence,” he wrote. “. . . (We will not touch a basketball the entire trip.) Our work as coaches transcends the field or court – or the classroom.”
If you’re lucky, you get a coach like that once in your life.
So they go. Through a private donation to a non-profit group, they travel to the infamous Nazi death camp. They are led by a Holocaust survivor, Eva Mozes Kor. The lessons they learn are innumerable. It’s likely they’ll never refer to adversity on a basketball court again.
“This is an opportunity for the players to coach — first themselves through this experience, then teammates, as they lean on one another, and then throughout their lives,” McKillop said. “They will depend on one another emotionally. The trip will require teamwork and togetherness of a new order for them. That is where we find our strength.”
But why this trip? There are plenty of places you can take a team to teach life lessons. McKillop explains, “I want them to understand this experience, for life, and to bring it back here, not just as a lesson but to live what they learned. Our world needs leaders who aim to lead and to serve, as our college’s mission declares, guided by humane instincts and creative and disciplined minds. We need advocates for, and defenders of, human dignity.”
We’re way beyond the basics of a 2-3 zone here. And we’re not even talking about an exercise in improving on-court performance.
We’re talking about an exercise in humanity, and we sure can use all of those we can get..
“A Davidson professor in German Studies, who is a Holocaust expert, cautioned in a pre-trip conversation with the team that each of them, at some point, will break down — in the camp, in the hotel room that night, on the trip home, back in North Carolina,” the coach wrote. “The emotional tonnage is inescapable.”
Fortunately, people like McKillop are willing to pick up that weight. And that’s a good thing.
One Good Thing is a nightly feature from WDRB Sports, outlining one story that is particularly good, memorable, inspiring or outstanding. If you’d like to submit ideas, write to email@example.com.
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