How 5 LDS basketball stars from Lone Peak model success amid America's 'war on boys'
Mika said the players watched each other to make sure nobody's head grew too big. "We kept each other in check.”
"Because we were so involved with each other," Toolson says, "and we all had the same values and we held each other accountable, if things were going wrong we'd tell each other.
For example, he says, "We'd say, 'Why are you swearing?’ ”
That kind of socialization is a major benefit of team sports, Farrell says. After an involved father, the most important elements that can help boys are sports and vocational opportunities for those without an academic orientation.
"We call them competitive sports," Farrell says, "but in fact the most important contribution of team sports is learning how to play as a team, learning how to pass the ball off to someone who is better than you are or who has a better shot than you. That cooperation is crucial to social-skill development."
For those not interested in team sports, single-participant sports teach self-starting skills, he adds. A third type of sports is disappearing from American culture: Pick-up games.
"Pick-up team sports are valuable preparation for being an entrepreneur," Farrell said, because boys and girls have to solicit participation, organize teams, set rules and boundaries, and decide who can be trusted. "You start from nothing and you build and create and you adjust constantly. That should be in every school system for both our sons and our daughters."
The key in all sports, Farrell says, is to make sure the emphasis is on character and values development. Those kinds of activities should be a part of every school every day, Farrell says, but only six states require physical education in every grade and just nine require recess.
"P.E. and recess are crucial to boys," he says. "Boys have much more need to have their physical energy dissipated before they can concentrate and focus."
Farrell is intrigued by Urban Dove, an alternative high school in Brooklyn where at-risk students play sports in the morning and their coaches remain in the school throughout the day, encouraging their charges through academic challenges, too. More than 98 percent of the students graduate, and 95 percent attend college.
Native Spanish speakers struggle to pronounce Shumway's last name. One boy calls him "Elder Sandwich." Some in the city where he served before Peñitas called him "Elder Chamoy." Chamoy is a Mexican salsa made of pickled fruit.
Count 18-year-old Jose Rodriguez among those who can't say "Shumway" and knows nothing about the missionary's football and basketball career. Rodriguez sometimes joins the missionaries to teach others about Jesus Christ.
"He barely got to Peñitas, but he's given me the motivation to talk to people more and share the gospel," Rodriguez says. "Whenever I go with the missionaries, he always makes me feel good. He tells me he's glad I came with them and they are better off when I'm there."
Toolson's mission president is Rodney Ames, 46, who left his practice as an attorney in Liberty, Mo., last summer to spend three years guiding the work of 275 missionaries in Fort Worth.
"I think as a general rule, the world criticizes boys today," President Ames says. "Even in commercials, men are the butt of the joke. I can see that even in my own boys, the temptation would be to believe that."
He suggests the young men, and women, in his mission can handle more than American culture presumes.
"These missionaries love the challenge of having real responsibility," he says. "They love the opportunity to try to do something big and difficult."
President Ames assigned Toolson, just 12 weeks after he arrived in Fort Worth and while still 18, to train a brand-new missionary. Now Toolson is a district leader, responsible for several companionships. Just a few hours after he ironed that shirt, he watched as a woman he had helped teach was baptized, a ceremony that required detailed coordination with the local congregation. There was another sensitivity to navigate: The woman hadn't told her sister and brother-in-law about her conversion because they don't allow Mormons in their home.
Less than a mile from the U.S.-Mexico border, Shumway regularly deals with some stemming from two of America's thorniest issues, illegal immigration and poverty. He and his companion, Elder Kyle Merrill of Centerville, Utah, even did some wedding planning with Castillo; she married Fernandez the night before her baptism to fulfill the requirement for chastity expected of each new convert.
"It's the reason we're here, to see people change, to accept the gospel," Shumway says in the parking lot after the baptismal service. Then he smiles.
"A little joy in the journey."