The first item on the agenda for USA Partner Denise Laskody this past Monday was escorting her 11-year old son and his 5th Grade CYO Basketball teammates to their interview on ABC’s Good Morning America.
The team from St. John’s in Clark, NJ was invited to discuss a recent heart-warming story of friendship, unity, and good sportsmanship that has shone a national spotlight on the values of teamwork and community -- values that we at USA Architects hold dear.
Last Friday, the nine boys and two girls who have played basketball together for four years had to make a decision: Play without the girls or give up the rest of the season.
Two weeks prior, the team was told by the league's director that they should never have played as a coed team and the girls would not be allowed to play on the team for the last two games of the season. The team’s 7-3 record was wiped, too, since the girls had played in those games "illegally."
“When we got the call from the director, we were floored,” said Denise, who in her dual roles as ‘Team Mom’ as well as board member of Girls, Inc., was a natural person to turn to for counsel. “The league director told us that if the girls showed up to their next game in uniform, the referees and the opposing team had been instructed to walk out of the gym. The coaches, the other parents and I conferenced together to decide how to best proceed. We decided to trust our kids.”
"Is your decision to play the game without the two young ladies on the team, or do you want to stay as a team as you have all year?" asked fellow team parent Matthew Dohn. "Show of hands for play as a team?"
Eleven hands shot up in unison. No one raised a hand when asked the alternative.
Assistant coach Keisha Martel, who is also the mom of one of the girls, Kayla Martel, reminded the team of the consequences.
"But if the girls play, this will be the end of your season. You won't play in the playoffs," she warned.
"It doesn't matter," Denise’s son replied and others echoed, before the team began to chant, "Unity!"
During Monday’s Good Morning America interview, Denise’s son Christian said “We found that it was unfair that Kayla and Lilabelle couldn’t play, and we wanted to stick up for them so they could play.”
In the last few days, the story has been covered by national news outlets, from The Washington Post to Forbes. The Archdiocese has since rescinded their decision and allowed the team to finish the season, united.
We couldn’t be more proud of the St. John’s team and their commitment to teamwork and community. At USA, our business is building communities–schools, offices, and public spaces—where all people can thrive. We have built our own strong professional community that is deeply invested in the people, the process and always doing the right thing, and the kids of St. John’s 5th Grade Basketball team inspire us. You’ll see many USA team members in the stands during the playoffs, cheering for St. Johns.