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Pilgrims learn more than jump shots in Costa Rica

July 14, 2017

DDK8Yi7W0AAdG6H-1PLYMOUTH – Sometimes the most important lessons for a young athlete are the ones he’s taught off the court. A group of Plymouth basketball players had a unique opportunity to learn more about the game – and themselves — as they took a trip overseas for a week of games and service.

Plymouth head basketball coach Ryan Bales took nine team members to the Central American nation of Costa Rica to do some team bonding and building literally. Garrett Tharp, Kadin McCrammer, Clay Hilliard, Bryce Carmichael, Brayson Leazenby, Adam Hunter, Hugh Smith, Thomas Dolan, Brady Hissong and assistant coach Brian Wray made the trip that included games with local teams but also some extra work.
“We worked through a group called Score International,” said Bales. “There was some preliminary meetings we had before the trip to let the guys have some information about the off the court things we’d be doing. They wanted to know some things about our team – the skill and experience level – so they could match us up with teams there of similar ability to challenge us on the court. They did a good job. We were 4-1 during the trip and really other than one game they were very close one or two point games.”
There were also the off-the-court challenges.
“We went to an orphanage where there were 47 kids in one house,” said senior Garrett Tharp. “The family wanted to run the home their way without government funds so the father had to work really hard at all kinds of things to make the money to support them.
“It was really kind of cool because the kids saw us walking up – a bunch of tall Americans and you could tell they knew they had seen teams like us before and they knew they were going to have a fun day. We brought a bunch of coloring books and crayons and just spent a lot of time doing things with them. It was really good to see kids smile.”
The team had another day that was a little more involved.
“We spent a day at a boys home where the guys had been abused or abandoned. They were a little older between 13 and 18,” said Tharp. “These guys came from some pretty rough situations and just needed some encouragement to go to school or to get jobs. We did some cement work there for them putting in a sidewalk and it was pretty hard work. They needed it to meet some sort of government regulations.”
“It wasn’t a normal job,” said Bales. “The sidewalk wasn’t some straight line that you backed a cement truck into, it went sort of up and down a hill and they gave us a couple wheelbarrows some concrete mix, some shovels and we mixed the concrete and pushed it along some ramps to get it where we needed to pour it. We were feeling it at the end of the day.”
“It was hard but it was really neat to see that these guys really wanted to interact with us even after what some of them had gone through,” said Tharp. “At the end of the day they all wanted to sit down and pray for us. I mean normally you think we should be praying for them but they really wanted to do that for us and that was special.”
Interaction was the theme of the week.
“That’s something I think that really was highlighted for me,” said Bales. “The relationships with our players and the relationships of our players. Our leaders did a great job on and off the court interacting with the younger guys that they really didn’t know that well. They showed them they had confidence in them and watching that confidence grow in those younger guys – it helps a younger player when the older guys show they have that confidence in you.
“It reinforced for me of getting to know all our kids, being able to connect with them and give them an opportunity to grow off the court as well as on it.”
“We had a hard day of work one day and later that night we were in a 90 degree gym playing a game,” said Tharp. “We’re down 10 and the coaches call time out and tell us, ‘play like this is Warsaw’ push through this and enjoy the day tomorrow. Kadin ended up hitting a shot that sent it into overtime and we ended up winning. We are going to have to take leadership roles on and off the court.”