Those of us with “garden variety” issues need to pay close attention to the story that follows.
On Jan. 31, the sixth-grade Franklin Lancers basketball team, coached by Brandon Smallman and Matt Maurer, took on the Jefferson Bobcats on their own floor.
Don’t really know who won, didn’t think it that important, and didn’t even ask the score.
With a little over two minutes to go in the game, Josh Guetersloh made his second appearance in the contest and immediately the Bobcats went to Josh for a shot.
Up and down the court the boys went, and on the next Jefferson possession, the Bobcats ran the same play.
Same result, another miss.
After two or three trips up and back, Josh was getting a little winded so Jefferson assistant coach Brian Baker instructed Josh, in no uncertain terms, “to get your behind on the low block and stay there.”
Josh complied and missed again from his spot down low on the right.
Apparently, at the 2.3 second mark, the clock “malfunctioned,” but in the excitement of grade school basketball, no one noticed.
The Bobcats got the ball back and ran Josh’s play again.
This time the ball tickled the twines.
The game ended with Josh surrounded by teammates, as well the boys from Franklin, and very few, if any, dry eyes in the house.
You see, Josh isn’t your “garden variety” sixth-grader.
Josh is a wiry, blond 13-year-old boy with an infectious, somewhat mischievous, grin who has battled some grim opponents all his life.
Born with microcephaly, a genetic abnormality affecting developmental advancement, Josh was slow to reach the normal childhood milestones like sitting up, crawling, walking, etc.
Josh has undergone six eye surgeries and still has only 20/100 vision in one eye.
Josh battles cerebral palsy as well, and for the last eight years has fought Type 1 diabetes.
But for all of that, you won’t catch Josh moping around.
Physical limitations notwithstanding, Josh has played recreational baseball and is a vital member of Jefferson’s sixth-grade basketball team.
Bobcats coach John Travis insists that despite his severe limits, Josh is an integral part of his team.
“Josh has taught all of us a lot about ourselves. He is always upbeat and one of our biggest cheerleaders. He just loves being a part of this team and being able to compete,” he said.
Travis noted the Franklin game wasn’t the only time that Josh’s presence changed the perspective of a game.
“We played Brookport with five players one night, we had kids out sick, so Josh had to tough it out,” he recalled ‘When one of our five fouled out early in the final quarter, we were down to four. The Brookport coaches took one of their boys off the floor, giving them four as well. I told them they didn’t have to do that, but they said, ‘That’s not what we’re about.’ You don’t know how much that teaches kids, and hopefully parents, about sportsmanship and fair play.”
Josh’s parents Dale and Lorrinda Guetersloh aren’t “Pollyannaish” about Josh’s future athletics.
“We know that the day is coming when competitive athletics are over for Josh, and we’re OK with that. But for right now, this is great for him, and I know he’s made a real difference in the kids around him,” Dale said.
He added, with a laugh: “Josh has more fun losing than most kids do when they win. His class is so close to him and so protective of him it’s amazing. Some of the kids are always checking on him and watching out for him. They just let him be a kid, and that’s all any parent can hope for.”
I’ve seen some amazing things in my 50 plus years of following sports, and I’ve read about and seen things like this on ESPN, but it is really cool when it happens in your hometown. Way to go, guys!