After a historic playoff run culminating in a decisive win over a previously-undefeated Summit High School team, Tualatin High School is the boys basketball State Champion for the first time in the school’s 30-year history. Hundreds of students attended the game, including the TuHS band (which was the largest and best in the tournament) and the TuHS cheerleading squad (which consistently demonstrated energy and enthusiasm to fire up the crowd). There was a lot for the Tualatin community to be proud of.
At the end of the game, the players dogpiled at center court, hoisted the OSAA state championship trophy in the air, and cut down the net. The players, coaches, and parents will probably remember those moments of pure joy for the rest of their lives. As I watched the celebration with my dad (we’ve been to just about every state basketball tournament since I was a freshman in 2006), I thought about why high school sports and activities are so important–and why we all should care about extracurricular accomplishments like this.
First, because research has proven that participating in an extracurricular activity (like basketball, band, and cheerleading) leads to better attendance and academic achievement. But, more importantly, these activities also teach students important life lessons and skills that have nothing to do with academics.
The most important thing I learned from my time in the boys basketball program at TuHS is best summarized by an old John Wooden quote: “There is no substitute for work. Worthwhile results come from hard work and careful planning.” I learned that from watching former Head Coach Rick Osborn pore over hours of film throughout the season and carefully design and adjust strategic offensive and defensive schemes to teach to his team. In nearly every game I watched him coach (hundreds!), Tualatin was always the better-prepared team. That approach of deep preparation has been the foundation of every successful job application I’ve submitted, professional presentation I’ve given, and even the political campaigns I’ve run.
After one of the most challenging seasons in modern memory, I have an idea of one of the lessons that Head Coach Todd Jukkala’s team will carry with them beyond the basketball court: how to confront adversity with resilience. Every high school basketball season comes with bad calls, injuries, and the academic and social challenges of being teenagers. But this season also included an unprecedented level of uncertainty amid COVID-19 shutdowns and quarantines. And yet, the team did what champions do: instead of feeling sorry for themselves or making excuses, they adapted and kept getting better. No team in the state demonstrated more poise under pressure than the Tualatin Timberwolves.
That’s the kind of lesson that will serve those young men for the rest of their lives.
So, to the former coaches and players who helped build a championship-caliber basketball program, and especially to the current coaches and players who brought home the championship: congratulations!