Hope & Basketball: Wolverines Assist Apsáalooke in Montana

After checking their luggage and a hundred basketballs, the Grove City College Women’s Basketball Team flew out to Montana this past May for a week-long service trip to the Crow Reservation – homeland of the Crow Indian Tribe of the state of Montana. As the team explored mission trip options last year, the girls on leadership felt drawn to the reservation – where Dr. Tracy Farone of Grove City’s Biology Department annually leads an intersession travel course, and where basketball just happens to be the most popular sport.

For Grove City students pursuing careers in public health, the site has provided excellent opportunities to develop and implement projects ranging from rabies clinics to nutrition seminars while exploring the history and culture of the Crow Reservation. For the Basketball team, the site provided a unique opportunity to be salt and light through the sport they love.

Sophomore Jordan McConnell shared the following about her team’s experience as they grew in unity, purpose, and strength while serving the Apsáalooke…

“For our team, being a Wolverine is defined by three words: unity, purpose, and strength. We strive to be united as a group, always putting the good of the team above the good of the individual. We practice playing for a bigger purpose, using the game of basketball to share God’s love. We focus on becoming mentally and physically stronger, growing 1% better than we were yesterday. During our week in Montana at the Crow Indian Reservation, we experienced unity, purpose, and strength in a very real way.

As we sat in our hotel lobby on the first night of our trip, we laid out our goals for the week. It was our desire to serve the community, show humility, and step out of our comfort zones. On Thursday, we had the opportunity to do some gardening at a greenhouse on the Crow Reservation. We spent the day pulling weeds, tilling the soil, and planting flowers and seeds in the garden. To finish what needed to be done, we each committed to different tasks, and it is because of this teamwork that we were able to accomplish in one day what would have taken the owners of the greenhouse several weeks. This process was an excellent reminder of unity, illustrating that we as a team can do so much more together than as individuals.

Friday, our team split into two groups and traveled to the local elementary and middle schools, promoting the basketball camp that we were hosting the next day. At the schools, we were able to do an assembly and share a little bit about Wolverine Basketball, interact with the kids during breakfast or lunch, play with them at recess, and simply show them love. It was our goal to get the kids excited about basketball, but we quickly learned that they already loved the game. To them, basketball is not just a sport, but instead it is a key element to their health. There is an issue with obesity on the Crow Reservation, and basketball is one of the main tools that they are using to fight this problem. From this experience, we were reminded of our purpose for the trip. These kids lived out our “bigger purpose” motto and showed us that basketball is so much more than a competition. Their energy and pure joy poured into us and gave us a renewed perspective of the game that we play.

Saturday was the “game day” of this trip. We had two three-hour sessions planned, and 100 basketballs to give away between the two camps. With no idea how many people would come, when over 215 kids were in the gym for the morning session, the 15 of us were blown away. The gym was full of Wolverines leading different drills and kids having a great time. At the end of the camp, we were so disappointed that we couldn’t give each kid their own ball. However, we brought siblings together and were able to give nearly every family a new basketball. After the kids had left, our team took a short break in a locker room. For the first few moments, we were quiet, each of us processing what had just happened and wondering how we could do the same thing over again. This is when we clearly needed strength. Physically and emotionally drained, we had to rely on the mental toughness and physical endurance that we continually train to have as Wolverines. Because of this strength, the second session went equally well. Working with about 60 kids this time, we were able to teach them on a deeper level and give the remaining basketballs to as many families as we could. The total number of campers for the day was well over 270 kids.

It is only through uniting as a team, focusing on the bigger purpose of basketball, and using the strength that we have established that our time at the Crow Indian Reservation was a success. Although we were able to have an impact on the people there through serving the community and playing basketball with the kids, the lessons that this trip taught us about unity, purpose, and strength were much greater. We saw how much we can do together as a team, how the game of basketball can change others’ lives, and how important it is to train our minds and our bodies. Thanks to the people at the Crow Indian Reservation, we saw what it means to be Wolverines.”

To follow Grove City Women’s Basketball, click here.

To explore faculty-led travel courses, click here.

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