A Moment Not Soon Forgotten

Taken from Recorder and Times http://www.recorder.ca/2017/03/16/a-moment-not-soon-forgotten

This is not the typical sports story giving you stats and scores or recaps of game highlights.

It’s a story that displays the strength and perseverance of one team and the compassion of their opponents.

It’s also a story that shows that sometimes the small things make the biggest impact.

Often times beautiful moments that happen outside the confines of regulation go unreported and this was one of those times Jackie Edwards wanted to make sure people knew about.

Jackie’s son, Jermaine, passed away Feb. 17 at the age of 27.

Less than two weeks ago Jackie coached her first basketball tournament since Jermaine left her and she was coaching a midget Kingston Impact team she had shared the bench boss duties with her son. It’s also a team her daughter Aaliyah plays for.

The Impact ended up winning the hometown tournament, beating the Brockville Blazers in the championship game.

Jackie addressed the crowd and teams after the final game and started to cry. Her team, standing in a line on the court, showed their emotions as well and did a group hug, which prompted the Blazers players to join in and blanket the Impact’s circle with a hug of their own. The crowd applauded as the moment unfolded, the audience watching what Jackie described as a, “Shield of love,” by the Brockville team.

“At that age, for them to have that poise and sense of compassion for the loss of another team’s coach, I don’t think words can put it,” Jackie said.

The two teams had actually played each other two days earlier to open the tournament. Nobody expected Jackie and Aaliyah to be at that game, but the tourney was one Jermaine had circled on his calendar and was excited for, so in turn they weren’t going to miss it. “Jermaine would have had it no other way,” Jackie said.

The Kingston coach admitted, though, she had to step out of the gym for a few minutes because it was the first game without her son by her side in the last few years and that reality set in. Jackie looked at her daughter warming up and the poise of the 14-year-old motivated her to continue.

The Blazers didn’t go easy on the Impact in the championship game. Out of respect they gave Kingston everything they had to beat them, but it was Aaliyah, again showing her poise, who played a game described by Blazers coach Kim Sauve as, “unstoppable.”

“There was like a spirit in her that I’ve never seen on a player,” she added.

Jackie said she never talked to her daughter about her motivation that game, but she believes her son was there doing the same thing he always did when he coached, yelling, “Let’s go. We got this.”

After the touching championship moment some of the Blazers had shed a few of their own tears. They went back home that night and didn’t think anything of their gesture or even what happened on the court. It was just something they did because it felt right. It wasn’t coaxed or planned, it just simply happened.

It wasn’t until later that night when the Blazers realized the magnitude of their kindness after a Kingston parent who was at the game posted a photo of the hug along with the caption, “A moment won’t soon forget…After our coach broke down talking about her son who passed, the team we played and defeated gathered around our whole team and hugged them. Impressive, Brockville. Impressive.”

“When we saw Jackie crying we didn’t even look at each other, we just went up and hugged her because we knew she needed comfort,” said Blazers player Jessica Meeson. “If we were emotional like that we’d want the other team to do the same for us, so we thought we’d do it for them.”

Maybe the gesture shouldn’t be much of a surprise to on-lookers. The specific girls on those Kingston and Brockville teams have built a friendship over the years, congratulating each other on the others’ accomplishments and high-fiving in warmups, said Jackie.

Before the tournament the Blazers made a donation to Merrick Palmer at Ottawa’s Capital Courts. The Edwards family had requested friends give a donation to youth basketball instead of giving them flowers.

Jackie never really took note of the camaraderie between the two clubs, though. It was just something the teams had always done.

“Just seeing Jackie and her whole team upset we just all felt the emotion towards her team and just what they were going through,” said Blazers player Lily Young.

Jackie points to that moment as a sign of the current state of girls basketball and the hopes she has to where it will lead heading forward.

“I find that these young ladies that are in basketball right now have this ability to compete, but with a care in their heart that I’m hopeful the next generation of basketball players recognize that a rivalry is a sense of respect they have for each other,” Jackie said. “I think basketball is an aspect of who they are and not what they are.”

Jermaine used always say, “You have to have a love for the game, but you have to have respect for each other.”

If that’s the case then impressive, Brockville. Impressive.

“It’s something you’ll never forget, the passion of a heartfelt game and the passion of the important things as people,” Sauve said.