Monday Motivation: Winning as One

John O’Leary

12/14/21 | Inspiration


Monday Motivation: Winning as One

What a Basketball Team in Southwest Texas Can Teach Us about Real Victory.


“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller


“Did you win?”

This is a common question asked by parents to their children upon returning home from youth sports. Typically followed by, “Well, did you score?”

Not that it’s totally unimportant to win or irrelevant to score, but I prefer a more beautiful example of what real victory and true scoring looks like. Let me explain.

Coronado High School is in El Paso, TX. Several years ago, their boys’ varsity basketball team was ranked number one heading into the final game of the season. A wonderfully athletic team and a strong head coach had a secret weapon: Mitchell Marcus.

Mitchell was their team manager. Unable to play at a high level as the result of developmental delays, he was beloved by the team and represented brilliantly the selfless, passionate spirit of this winning team.

Near the end of the final game, Coach Peter Morales called over his manager. The coach looked at the unsuspecting young man and told him to take off the sweatshirt, get off the bench, and get into the game. Mitchell was stunned having never before played in a competitive basketball game. But he smiled broadly, ripped off the sweatshirt and sprinted onto the court.

Coach Morales simply wanted to get Mitchell playing time. His teammates, however, wanted far more: they wanted him to score.

Three different times they passed the ball to Mitchell near the basket. Three different times he took shots. And three different times the young man failed to score.

With just 10 seconds on the clock and the opposing team in possession, the unlikely dream of Mitchell scoring seemed an impossibility.

And that’s when this story gets really good.

A senior on the opposing team named Jonathon Montanez, keenly aware of what was going on, yelled, “Hey, Mitchell!” Mitchell turned, and the opposing team captain inbounded the ball – not to someone on his own team – but to someone on the opposing team. Mitchell caught it, dribbled toward the hoop, took a shot, and the buzzer sounded, as the basketball fell perfectly through the hoop.

Mitchell scored.

The high school gymnasium went crazy.

Both sidelines charged the floor to celebrate.

I imagine that evening when the boys from opposing teams went home and were asked if they won and if they scored? All the players could joyfully respond: “Yes! Yes, we won. And yes, we scored.”

It turns out real victory isn’t merely about what we can do for ourselves and get for our team, but ultimately what we can invest into others and achieve together.

My friends, as we conclude 2021, we know we live in divided, difficult days.

Yet we know something else, too. In our current marketplace and political system addicted to pursuing individual success, scoring points, and tallying wins for themselves, the far higher calling is to come together, strive as one, and fight for victories that live on long after the scoreboard is reset and the bleachers are emptied.