Amy Donaldson: Whether Olympics or 1A basketball, the struggle is just as beautiful, the lessons just as valuable

Published: Sunday, March 9 2014 9:15 p.m. MDT

RICHFIELD — I was in a hurry to get to press row when I saw the poster board sign propped up near a table where two teenage girls sat.

The message, written in black marker and much too long to be considered effective advertising, caught my attention because I recognized a name — Jayci Glover.

The first time I heard Jayci’s name was the previous weekend when I watched the 4A and 5A girls basketball state championship teams sign a basketball that would be given to the high school in her hometown of Kanab. Among the signatures was the sentiment, “Fight like Jayci.”

Utah High School Activities Association assistant director Becky Anderson told the coaches and captains who were playing for state titles on that Saturday afternoon why she was collecting signatures for the Kanab high school.

After a painful year of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, the Make-A-Wish Foundation offered the 13-year-old the chance to have her heart’s desire.

Instead of choosing something for herself, she donated her gift ($7,500) to Kanab High in the form of new digital scoreboards.

Anderson told Jayci’s story and said the players who signed weren’t just offering a mindless signature. They were dedicating their efforts to the “courage and example” the 13-year-old offered. Those girls played for state titles the very same day that the Glover family laid Jayci to rest in Kanab.

So when I saw her name, I stopped. It turns out the Panguitch girls basketball team was selling programs for the boys tournament for a minimum donation of $2 in hopes of raising money for the Glover family in Kanab and the Logann Eager family in Tropic. Eager is battling stage 4 cancer and needs help with medical costs, while the Glovers still need help with medical and burial expenses.

My donation was small enough that it won’t change anybody’s life, but it felt nice to be a part of an effort that included three communities in some of Utah’s most beautiful rural counties. It was shortly after that that people began asking the one question I answered repeatedly during my three days in Richfield covering the 1A boys basketball state tournament.

“What’s it like to go from covering the Olympics to covering 1A basketball?”

The question was phrased differently depending on who asked. Some people were incredulous that I actually wanted to go from covering the athletic feats of the world’s best winter sports athletes to covering the efforts of the state’s smallest prep teams.

I was surprised anyone thought it was odd, and the questions made me think about the similarities and the differences.

After nearly a month in Russia, I found myself more sentimental about my time in Richfield than I normally am. And after I was asked the question by the father of one of the boys competing in the tournament, I was reminded of something that St. Joseph girls basketball coach Joe Cravens said to me when we repeatedly asked him what it was like to go from coaching Division I men’s basketball to coaching the smallest level of girls hoops.

"The same things that motivated and made me feel successful — the team getting better, watching the players pick up ideas, team concepts, seeing them get better individually — that's what coaching is all about," he said after his team won its first title in 2012. "And you feel good about that. It doesn't matter what level, what gender. I'm trying to help individuals get better. ... I don't think I would have understood that if I hadn't gone through it."

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