This game was simply the worst game ever. I cried. My players cried. Maybe even a few on the other team cried.
To us, it wasn't about losing the game. It was about ending the season, a magical season where so much more than soccer went on. You can read archived articles in the Ledger-Enquirer about the history-making 2014 season of Jordan High girls' soccer team, and although a proud moment in this coach's career, those wins and that season are not the focus of this story.
It's what happened after our last game.
We spent the entire season overcoming obstacles, from players waking up to no electricity, to scraping up money for new uniforms, to everything unimaginable in between. I spent the entire season trying to instill character. Unlike the cliché, we had truly created a family. I hugged every single one of them every single day and told them I loved them.
Many had never heard those words from an adult before, and that's why we cried. We knew when that final whistle blew, there would never be a time when every single one of us would be together in the same place again. It was heart-wrenching.
We dried our tears and moved on, because that is what Jordan kids do.
In fact, we moved to the top of Kinnett Stadium to wait for parents. On the field below, the Columbus High Lady Blue Devils were taking the field for their second round game in the state tournament. I invited my girls to sit and watch the CHS girls play, for I knew them to be a premiere, championship team. My girls would love watching an upper-level team play. So we sat.
Then the Jordan spirit began to rise up out of my girls. They started the wave. They sang a chant. They cheered and yelled. And they turned heads.
A Columbus High parent came up to the top row and sat beside me. She said with a smile, "You guys are louder than our own student section. Who are you?" Well, that was like opening the flood gates for a proud momma to brag on her children ... so I did. I bragged on our season. I shared about our struggles. I told of our tight bond. She listened in tears, and the only thing she could say was, "I had no idea."
That's an interesting point to highlight. What we DO know about Jordan and Columbus is a historical rivalry between the two oldest schools in Columbus. What we DO know about Jordan and Columbus is that in recent years the distance between the two has increased remarkably, both in academics and in athletics. It's what we DON'T know about Jordan and Columbus that is what this story is all about.
My players' parents finally arrived to pick up their kids, and the loud, chanting cheerleaders left. I watched the rest of the game alone, in a stupor of pride. My girls had turned heads. They had bridged all chasms between economic lines.
They had broken all racial barriers. They had closed all gaps between academic achievements. Jordan kids did that, and I was proud.
Two days later, I opened an envelope addressed to the Jordan girls' soccer team. In it was a beautifully written letter and a thank you card signed by 20 members of the Columbus girls' soccer team. Folded in the center was a check.
-- Sheryl Green is an independent contractor. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org