The other day I read several blog posts that dealt with sports and various characteristics that can grow when participating in sports whether it be high school, college, professional or even recreational. Traits like perseverance, determination, resilience, etc. were discussed and are definitely key contributors to success. However, the most important gain from playing sports – especially team sports – is camaraderie.
I’ve played high school basketball for 3 years and I’ve witnessed first hand how important it is to have teammates who face the same struggles as you or experience the same joy as you. I’ve grown extremely close with many of my teammates because we spend so much time together. Not only do we practice/play together for 5 days a week, but we also have team dinners and activities where we bond and have fun. My teammates were the only ones to pick me up when I was down and to celebrate with me when things were working out. These relationships aren’t specifically for basketball but can carry on through life afterwards. My coach always told me that he wasn’t here just to teach us how to play, but to shape us into better men.
In Remember the Titans, T.C. Williams High School in Virginia was being integrated which was a huge deal at the time. Not only were black players joining the football team, but the team would also be run by a black head coach who was fully qualified. At first it was difficult for the black and white players to mesh but at camp that year, Coach Boone(Washington) forced each white player to room with a black player and to learn about their lives. If they didn’t do so, they’d face heavy physical punishments (extra practices).
The two players that seemed to clash the most were Gerry Bertier and Julius Campbell. Before camp, Bertier wanted nothing to do with his new coach or the other black players. He was one of the least tolerant players on the team. Upon entering camp he actually got into a small snafu with Julius Campbell his roommate, who was of course, black. There lack of chemistry translated onto the field as they could not play together. Constantly they’d get into arguments and blame the poor performance on each other. There were numerous brawls during practice. This continued for a while. However, as they played together, Bertier’s mindset changed. One practice he even scolded one of his closest friends for not blocking for the black teammate. Bertier’s energy and leadership set an example for the other players and soon, through football, they were able to not only coexist with the black players but become brothers to them.
Football transcended the race controversies of the time. The real world was still hostile towards the team. Coach Boone still got threats at first and his family was put in danger. But as the team slowly gained momentum and won games, he began to receive praise and respect. I will never forget the scene where coach returned home after a hard fought game to see his white neighbors come outside and cheer for him. I still get goosebumps just thinking about it. The idea that a game could change history is exciting to me. Through football, black players and white players came together and formed a great brotherhood. The relationships between the players on the team were unbelievable given the circumstances. Together, the Mighty Titans were able to face any challenge that came there way.