Lesson of the Day: ‘On a Dirt Court, a Ravaged School Planted the Seeds of a Championship’

Featured Article: “On a Dirt Court, a Ravaged School Planted the Seeds of a Championship” by Jeré Longman

How important are sports at your school and in your community? What would happen if they were suddenly taken away?

Two years ago, a Louisiana high school lost its gym when a hurricane tore through town. Practicing on a dirt court, the girls’ basketball team adopted a defiant motto: “no gym, no problem.”

In this lesson, you will learn about the determination and grit of the players, along with their coach and community, and how they were able to win a Louisiana state championship in the face of great odds. In a Going Further activity, we invite you to write a profile of an athlete or sports team in your own community using the featured article as a mentor text.

Imagine there were suddenly no gyms, fields, courts or stadiums to use for sports where you live: How would life in your town or city be different? How would it affect you and your peers? How would your community respond to the loss?

Take a few minutes to reflect on the role sports play in your school and community. Then, respond in writing or in discussion with a partner to the prompts below:

  • Do you participate in sports, in or out of school? If so, how have your experiences affected or shaped you?

  • How much do sports matter to you, your school or community?

  • What comforts, joys and solace have sports — as a participant or a fan — provided you in these difficult times?

  • What would be lost if your school or community suddenly had to live without sports?

  • How much would your community be willing to fight to get them back?

Read the articleand then answer the following questions:

1. How did the girls’ basketball team at Hicks High School lose their gym and end up practicing on a small dirt court in front of the school for nearly two years?

2. What hardships did the Hicks Pirates face in playing without a gym? What do you think of the team’s motto: “no gym, no problem”? Do you think your own school community would have shown the same tenacity, creativity and grit in the face of adversity?

3. What role do high school sports play in Louisiana and the town of Hicks? How does it compare to the role of sports in your own community that you explored in the warm-up activity?

4. How did Coach Mike Charrier motivate his players to persevere and win their fourth consecutive state championship? Have you ever had a coach play an important role in your life, on or off the court?

5. How have high school sports become “a prime indicator of the challenges Louisiana faces with climate change,” according to Mr. Longman? Give two examples from the article of how extreme weather has impacted sports teams in the state.

6. Coach Charrier said after the state championship game, “Don’t judge these girls by what they’ve accomplished. Measure them by what they’ve overcome.” Do you agree? What is your reaction to the story? Why do you think The Times chose to feature a high school sports team from a small town? What lessons can you take from the story — about sports and about life?

Write about a local athlete or sports team in your community.

Imagine that The Times hired you to write an article about a local athlete, sports team or athletic program that has faced adversity, on or off the court. Whom would you profile and why? What questions would you ask? How might the story inform and engage readers?

Use the featured article as a mentor text to create your profile. Like Mr. Longman, use vivid language to capture the hardships and obstacles your athletes faced and what it took for them to succeed.

Brainstorm a list of questions you could ask to learn about your subject’s experiences and accomplishments. For instance, you might ask: What obstacles did you or your team face? How did you try to overcome them? What was the most rewarding about your experience? What was most challenging? How did your coaches, friends, parents or community members support you? What life lessons did you learn about yourself or about being on a team? What advice would you give others that are facing similar barriers or tough odds?

You might also want to interview other people for this story, such as the athlete’s family or coaches.

If you are working on this assignment as part of a class project, you may want to display your work with your classmates and publish the profiles in the school newspaper or on the school website.

Want more Lessons of the Day? You can find them all here.

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