From Chicken Soup for the Child's Soul

Courage on the Court

Andy has a lot of courage. He’s never wrestled a bear. He’s never hiked ten miles in a blizzard or saved a cat stuck in a tree. Not yet. But he has stood up to something scarier—the guys on his basketball team. And that was when he was only ten years old.

Last season, Andy’s basketball team, the Blues, came from behind in an amazing finals play-off. You know who the coach was? A high-school player.

As the season went along, Andy’s team had lost more games than they had won and were in sixth place out of eight teams. In the finals, they had to go against the tough, third-ranked Green team. But the Blues were hungry for a win when they played the first round of finals. They started out scoring the first basket and wouldn’t let the Green team catch up. That was their game plan. Squash and score, and it worked. Andy’s team outscored the Green team by twelve points, and they went through to round two.

Their next game in the finals was the following Saturday. Andy’s pretty tall, so he always did the tip-off. But the Yellow team guy he faced was as tall as Andy’s dad—without even jumping. He just stood there with his arm raised like he was answering a question in math class and tapped the ball to another Yellow guy who took it down the court and scored.

It went downhill from there. None of the guys on the Blue team could make their baskets. It was as if the rims were smeared with grease. The Blue team lost by nine points, but it wasn’t over yet. They were still able to play another team that had lost. They were still able to take third place and a trophy.

The next Saturday, Andy and the rest of the Blue team got to the gym extra early. They were playing the Red team, and Andy knew a lot of those guys from being on their teams from other seasons. He even had the coach of that team two years before.

The gym was so quiet at tip-off that Andy heard the kid facing him breathe. The ref blasted her whistle. Andy’s fingers scuffed the ball, but the Red player managed to knock it to his Red teammate.

The numbers on the scoreboard jumped back and forth just like the basketball. Andy managed to make a couple of baskets. Even though he wore his lucky basketball shorts, Blue had slipped behind by one.

Fifteen seconds were left, and the Blue team had the ball. They could still win. Suddenly, the ball was out of bounds.

“Blue ball,” the ref said. “I didn’t see who touched it last.”

As a Blue player hopped over the line at center court to throw in the ball, Andy later said it was one of those moments that lasted only a second, but felt like forever. The ref hadn’t seen who had touched it last, but Andy had.

Andy, like the rest of his teammates, wanted to win—badly. If Blue got the ball and made a basket, they would win by one point. And they had time, if Andy kept quiet.

“Ref, it hit my foot,” Andy confessed.

“Thank you,” the ref said as she took the ball back from Blue and handed it to Red. There was some major groaning from the Blues.

Although it was close, the Blue team lost by three points, but the boys still wound up with shiny, fourth-place medals on red, white, and blue ribbons. Everyone thought that was cool.

Andy’s old coach from the Red team came over to him before he left the gym.

“Andy, what you did in there,” he nodded toward the court, “made me proud of you. And I’m not talking about your playing. You know what I mean?”

When Andy was asked if he had been afraid of what his teammates would say when he confessed, he shrugged. “They were mad, but I knew they wouldn’t hate me. But if I didn’t say anything, I knew I would hate me for a long time afterward.”

Sandy Green

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