By Alex Grosswald, Staff Writers
The teams break from their prayer circle and prepare themselves for tip off. The roar of squeaky sneakers thunders through the gym. Churches gather to compete in basketball games every saturday throughout the fall. The teams shout their names then methodically set up around the center circle. The gym is dead silent until the tip off commences. Once the ball flies into the air, the crowd erupts.
Every church practices at least once a week to prepare for their games the following Saturday. What makes church ball enjoyable is that it consumes very little time and is a perfect balance of competition and religion. Each church practices for about an hour and then congregates for a 20 minute devotion service. Davis Gilmore is a junior at RJR who has played on the St. Paul’s church ball team for many years.
“I like church ball because it is extremely fun,” Gilmore said. “It is competitive while not being too serious.”
Two years ago, church ball became more inclusive by allowing a team from Temple Emanuel to join. This was a huge change because it made it possible for two groups divided by different religions to compete in basketball games while becoming better friends.
Kelton Miller, a senior at RJR, is a new player for the Temple team as of this year.
“I love the sound of hitting nothing but net from behind the arc,” Miller said. “There is no better feeling than crossing my opposition while achieving victory as a team.”
The competition increases as the end of season tournament approaches. At the end of the “regular season”, every team is invited to a tournament. The teams get organized into a bracket and compete with intentions of avoiding the single elimination. One loss means your church is out of contention.
Although church ball attracts people mainly for the basketball, it provides unique opportunities. When you participate in this league, you are exposed to healthy competition and differing religions. This includes the Jewish team who wanted to participate in the league three years ago. Their inclusion benefits everybody by exposing the players who associate with different religions to learn something about the other. The intertwining of Christianity and Judaism is what makes this such an appreciated extracurricular. Win or lose, at the end of the day, everybody is there to hangout with friends and have a good time while studying religion.
“The opportunity to goof off with good friends while spending time practicing your religion is one of the best combinations you could think of,” senior Jackson Labrecque said.
The season is nearing its end and has yet to produce all the excitement it is capable of producing. The trophy is on the minds of every team as they prepare to have a run at the end of season tournament.
The tournament games begin this Saturday, February 4th. Every team has the exact same chance of winning because the past means nothing. New year. New teams New champion. Who will it be?
Photo from Hoops 4 Him