The race is long, and, in the end, your only opponent is yourself. The score never really mattered.
My name is Jake Nichols. I cover the Jackson Lady Broncs basketball team. I’m paid to show up when they play. They aren’t. I’m doing a job. They’re just being superheroes in shorts and sneakers.
The Jackson Lady Broncs are not a good basketball team. Not by any stretch of the statistics. Not in the way sports teams are traditionally measured.
They lost every game they played this year. The Lady Broncs were the only girls team in the state—in all four conferences to go winless.
All year this team has been last in scoring, shooting, rebounding, defense…everything. In three of their games this season, the Lady Broncs scored a total of 5 points.
It wasn’t much better last year, or the year before, or the year before that. In fact, in the past 7 seasons counting this one, the Jackson girls varsity basketball team has won a total of 15 games—in 149 tries.
And this season has gone from promising to bad to cringe.
There is no conceivable reason I can think of that would cause a player on the Jackson girls basketball team to continue to come to practice every day, ride a bus for hours, and get drubbed game after game. At least, that was my impression before I started getting invested in watching them. Now I’ve bought in. I’m Team Lady Broncs. And here’s why…
These girls don’t quit. Ever.
I respect their game. A full 32 minutes, ‘score be damned, leave it all out there’ kind of round ball. Down 20 points late in the game, these athletes are still diving on the hardwood for loose balls. Beaten last week by a team that dominated them in every facet of the game, the Lady Broncs learned from it, put it behind them and moved on. Irrepressible and ready to tap a new contest.
They just keep showing up. In a shallow ‘me’ culture of TikTok, rap stars, and Insta influencers, the Jackson Lady Broncs show up and play for each other if for no one else. In a post-COVID world where no one wants to work for a living and we all just Zoom it, mail it in—the girls on the Jackson Hole High School basketball team make the effort to make the scene.
As Woody Allen said: 90% of life is showing up.
And it’s life lessons at work here, make no mistake. A high school sophomore is not going to remember how many rebounds she had against Evanston that one January night in ’22. Fans certainly won’t. And hopefully she’ll also forget the 2019-20 season when they won just twice in 22 games.
But what will stick and stay is the strong woman she will become. The warrior she is already.
While a state title gathers dust in the high school trophy case, graduates are sent out into a world they are increasingly, woefully underprepared for.
SAT scores are nice but you wanna build character? Try surviving a 37-game losing streak. Hold your head up when your team hasn’t won a game in a month. Or a year.
I watch these kids play their hearts out. Heart and hustle. For pride, for school, for their ride-or-die crew. Over and over, they take one for the team. They realize there is something bigger than themselves.
When they’re down, they get back up. When they’re throwed, they get back on. They always take the re-ride; pick the path of most resistance.
This team is perspiration and inspiration.
“This is the toughest challenge in my 31 years of coaching, but the most rewarding. I couldn’t be more proud of them,” said first-year head coach Sean Shockley who came back to take over the program when no one else wanted it.
“After the varsity, JV, and freshman teams lost every single game they played this season, the girls got together and made this TikTok dance video. I mean, I just about teared up. They’re resilient. And they are not broken,” he said.
Probably these players aren’t conscious of any of this. They’re likely just going through the ups and downs of being a teenager, doing school and playing sports. But the person they are becoming every game, and, yes, with every whipping they take on the court, is harder-faster-stronger. Polishing a pearl.
This ragamuffin bunch might be winless, but they’re fearless. And I love that about them.
The winless Jackson Lady Broncs met the undefeated and top-seeded Cody Fillies to begin Regional post-season play Thursday. David versus Goliath. It was a massacre.
But like they have all season, the Lady Broncs picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and played their hearts out the following day. Another loss. Season over.