Schaumburg's team proves there's more to life than just basketball
The Schaumburg boys basketball team is on a five-game winning streak heading into its game at Barrington on Friday night.
But the Saxons don't have to win another game all season, although they most assuredly will, to be winners in life.
On Wednesday, coach Wade Heisler assembled his team in a classroom after practice to tackle a couple of projects that have little to do with playing basketball, but everything to do with giving back to the community.
The first of those projects had to do with emphasizing the importance of service, selflessness and community.
In order to emphasize that point, Heisler had Army Sgt. Ramiro Sanchez come in and speak to the team about the importance of giving back.
"Don't be selfish," Sanchez, who has served in the Army for 11½ years, told the group as his main point.
Sanchez, who has been on deployments to Afghanistan and Korea, went on to explain to the Saxons, among other things, that he's spent many holidays away from home.
"Being away from my family has probably been the hardest thing I've ever done," Sanchez said.
With that, the Saxons then spent the next 15 minutes writing personal letters to military personnel overseas.
"A complete and utter stranger showing their appreciation means the world," Sanchez told the team.
After penning their letters, the Saxons went into phase two of the night -- shopping for an elderly member of the community through the Adopt-A-Family program. Heisler learned about the program from Schaumburg social studies teacher Cindy Dvorak, who is involved with the program through the Township of Schaumburg. The team went out to buy Christmas gifts, with Heisler imploring each boy and their parents to make sure the kids were spending $10 of their own money on the gifts.
What does all of this mean to the grand scheme of high school basketball? Well, if you're on board with the belief that high school sports should teach life lessons, then it has everything to do with high school basketball.
"We want to be more than just a basketball program," said Heisler, now in his fourth year as Schaumburg's head coach. "We want to help our young men develop great character and understand the importance of serving others. I think being excited about helping others makes you a better basketball player and a better citizen, and what better time than the holidays to help someone out."
Heisler's message is not lost on his team, especially senior leaders Mike Hodges and Heze Trotter.
"It's very important to give back and help those in need because it's easy to take for granted what we have," Hodges said. "When we think about others and try to help others it's very humbling."
Trotter, a three-sport star, says Heisler's message of giving back is an important one for the future as well as the present.
"Coach stresses that there's going to be a time when you're going to have to hang up the shoes and hang up the cleats and go into the real world so this is huge to us," Trotter said. "It's teaching us that as men life is bigger than just basketball. People go through things that we might not see from our perspective but there are real world problems out there and we're just happy to help. If we can make one person's Christmas a little better it brings a smile to all of our faces."
There's also some important team bonding involved in what the Saxons did on Wednesday.
"Off the court, doing simple stuff like this, going out shopping as a team, these are the memories you're going to remember when you go off to college and you're not playing basketball anymore," Trotter said. "When it's all said and done and your basketball career is over, I'll remember hanging out with my team, laughing and being close on the court and off the court and being with a group of guys who are making a better impact on the community.
"We don't need all the publicity from it. Knowing that it made someone's Christmas or made their day is all we really need. It puts smiles on our faces and helps us grow as men."
And makes the Saxons winners, regardless of what any scoreboard might say.