Crimson Tide players honor their coach's sister, who is battling ovarian cancer
No matter the sport nor the skill of its participants, the games matter. We would not play them otherwise.
But every once in a while, sometimes sports and life intersect, and we are reminded that while the games we play do matter, other things things such as love, community and family matter even more.
One of those reminders took place last Wednesday at the Glencoe softball field, where the Crimson Tide squared off against city rival Hillsboro on a hot and sunny afternoon.
Of course this game held some import: Glencoe had the chance to keep hold of first place in the Pacific Conference standings after league favorite Tualatin had lost for the first time two nights earlier. The rebuilding Spartans, meanwhile, were trying to gain some traction against one of the conferences preeminent programs.
This game was different from the norm, though. You could see it, literally, because teal was everywhere even though Century was nowhere to be found.
Instead of wearing their traditional colors, the Tide players opted for black jerseys screened with teal ribbon emblems and teal socks. And the players and head coaches for both squads sported teal bows in their hair.
Their act of solidarity was performed to honor a woman who was not at the game that afternoon, at least not in the physical sense. Julie Hiles has long been a supporter of the Glencoe program, but she has not been able to attend many games this season while she battles ovarian cancer.
Teal is the color that represents ovarian cancer awareness. Hiles is Glencoe coach Jacy Jukkalas older sister.
Its awesome, Jukkala said last week while sitting in the dugout after the game. I hope that these girls know that Id do anything for them. Thats the great thing about coaching, is the relationships you build.
I just feel so lucky to be surrounded by such great kids. They are an awesome group. I cant even really put words to it, because its just so awesome that they would want to do that and care so much about me and my family.
The idea to recognize Hiles was spearheaded by Glencoe senior Kylie Surratt, who has known Hiles for a number of years, and not only through softball. In fact, she called Hiles a second mom.
Surratt initially brought up the idea with the team, and then the girls went to Jukkala. The shirts were made bearing Hiles initials on the ribbons and the hair bows were procured.
Before the contest, the Glencoe players addressed the crowd with some statistics about cancer. The day was an emotional one for Surratt.
It meant a lot because she was supposed to come tonight, but she was too sick, Surratt said. I just know that she wanted to be here.
As for the opposition, Hilhi coach Stacey Hutchinson and her Spartans, they were tipped off beforehand about what the Tide had been planning, and they were eager to lend their support.
Hutchinson knows Jukkala personally, having previously coached summer ball with her, and she also appreciated the chance to share something with a greater meaning with her own players.
Theres bigger things in life than softball and ultimately we have to recognize those things and identify whats important in life, Hutchinson said. This is just a ... mechanism to get farther in life. We learn how to battle and we learn how to fight in games, and then we take that to other life things where we have to battle and fight.
Of course, the two teams also played some softball that afternoon. Glencoe went up big early and eventually won 13-0 in five innings.
In all probability, though, the score is not what they will remember most about that day, probably especially not Jukkala. Spend any time at all around the Glencoe program, and it likely will not take long for the word family to come up.
Its not hard to see why. Jukkalas dad, Stan Schmidt, helps coach the team, and shortstop Courtney Claytons mom, Heidi, is the teams statistician. Sophomore stars Kamryn Apling and Macy Besuyen are cousins.
And then there are Surratt and Hiles, who are not tied by blood but might as well be.
That sense of family starts with Jukkala.
My sisters and my mom and I, I mean, really, those are my best friends, Jukkala said. Those are the people that I go to.
That sense of family permeated last weeks game. Before it started, the Glencoe players also shared an idea, a theme, a motto. It works when applied to sport, but its power extends far beyond the world of athletics to what the idea of family can do and be.
The words are Hiles words, too, Surratt said.
No one fights alone.