Teams show high school sports not all about winning

Steve
Steve Bartlett
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Kevin, Sarah and Lynn Emberley with a poster for the annual basketball tournament held in memory of David, who drowned nine years ago. - Photo by Steve Bartlett/The Telegram

It started with a simple gesture. Sean Doyle, teacher and athletic director at Mobile Central High, wanted to add a girls' division to the David Emberley Memorial Basketball Tournament.

The event had been boys-only since the inaugural tip-off eight years ago, but there were different factors at play this year.

David's little sister, Sarah, plays with the Mobile girls' team and is graduating. Doyle and the organizers thought it would be fitting for her to play in the tourney that remembered her brother. The former Mobile player drowned nine years ago this June.

The tragedy happened on Sarah's ninth birthday - just two weeks before he would have turned 15.

The fact Sarah is coached by her father Kevin and older sister Laura - obviously David's dad and sibling, too - made adding a girl's competition even more apropos.

Still, the Emberleys were hesitant about breaking with tradition.

"I didn't want it to be for every year," Sarah says. "I only wanted it to be for one year if it happened."

Eventually the family was on side.

The tournament went ahead Feb. 16-18, with eight teams vying for the boys title and five after the girls crown.

No one expected that chase by competitive teams would produce two magical moments, where winning took a backseat to sportsmanship and friendship.

The top teams in the girls round robin were to meet in the championship game.

When the buzzer sounded on the final round-robin match, Baltimore High of Ferryland and Stella Maris from Trepassey were set to play for gold.

Host Mobile sat in third and out of contention.

That was until Baltimore did the unexpected and announced they were pulling out of the tournament.

Their decision wasn't fueled by controversy: Baltimore simply wanted Mobile to play for the David Emberley championship.

"We've been around basketball long enough to know how important it is to a team to make it to the finals. ... For Baltimore to give up their place was a big thing and we really appreciated it," says Lynn Emberley, mother to David, Sarah and Laura and wife to Kevin.

Her husband was wowed by the gesture. Coach Kevin has been involved in sports for decades and had never heard of a team giving up a chance to play for a medal.

So Mobile went to the championship game against Stella Maris, with the Baltimore players among the spectators in a packed gym cheering them on.

The title match was hard fought and close, but the Trepassey team emerged the winner by a score of 67-60.

Then the unexpected happened again.

The Trepassey players gave their gold medals to the Mobile girls.

"It was like something you'd see in a movie that would never happen in real life," says Sarah.

According to numerous accounts, there wasn't a dry eye in the gym.

Sarah, her family and her teammates were among those who filled up.

"It even brought tears to my eyes," says Kevin, who had "knots in his chest" recounting the story.

Doyle, who has coached for about 25 years, says it was one of the greatest displays of sportsmanship he's ever witnessed.

The Telegram asked to speak with a Stella Maris player about why they gave up gold.

Instead, one girl offered a team statement on the condition she wouldn't be identified.

She explained it was a team decision to hand the medals to the Mobile players.

"We know that if they were in our shoes then they would do the same for us. We respect them and we're all friends on and off the court. We kind of said, no matter where we play or who we play, we always remember where we are from (and) sportsmanship comes first."

Stella Maris coach Jacinta McGrath say the team told her its intentions before the game.

"It didn't surprise me that the girls did something like that because they are a very nice bunch of girls," she says.

"It was their way of showing them ... we were there for them in the spirit of the tournament."

The Emberleys are moved by the actions of both Stella Maris and Baltimore.

"I think it's a beautiful thing to have happen at (David's) tournament because that's what we want his tournament to be - good sportsmanship and fun and hard play," says Lynn.

"That's what David was like," adds Kevin.

Mobile, Baltimore and Stella Maris are battling on the court again this weekend. Don't expect either team to step aside or give up a medal though. It's their regional playdowns and the top teams advance to the provincials.

"We go out to beat each other," Kevin says. "It's a competitive sport."

But win or lose, he won't forget what his opponents did during the tournament remembering his son.

"It meant a lot. It's something that will never, ever leave you, even when I'm six feet under. It probably won't leave me then."

sbartlett@thetelegram.com Twitter: @SteveBartlett_

Geographic location: Baltimore, Trepassey, Ferryland

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • Fenn
    March 05, 2012 - 07:37

    This is the best story I have read in a long time. Being a former Baltimore student and basketball player, I feel so proud of our girls and the Trepassey girls for doing this for the Mobile team. That is what sportsmanship is really about!! Way to go girls!!

  • Rose McNeil
    March 03, 2012 - 19:51

    Being a former resident of Trepassey reading this story makes me really proud. Even though Trepassey has been a long contender in basketball they haven`t lost their sense of sportsmanship. Cheers to Baltimore as well!! A great heart touching story.

  • Judi
    March 03, 2012 - 17:52

    This story moved me to tears and grabbed at my heart. What wonderful students-- to put aside the glory of winning a tournament to pay tribute to a young man taken from his family and friends too soon, and to give his sister (and teammates) an honour they will never forget. Every day you hear stories of young people taking a wrong path in life. This article, and these kids strengthen your belief in mankind, and give you confidence that the world is in good hands. On March 12th, Canadian superstar Johnny Reid releases a new CD entitled *Fire it Up*. One of the lines in the single of the same name is *Ain't it crazy how one simple act of kindness can open up your eyes*. The students of Baltimore and Trespassey high schools have definitely opened up our eyes. These kids are the province's future. They are *changing the world*.

  • Judi
    March 03, 2012 - 17:51

    This story moved me to tears and grabbed at my heart. What wonderful students-- to put aside the glory of winning a tournament to pay tribute to a young man taken from his family and friends too soon, and to give his sister (and teammates) an honour they will never forget. Every day you hear stories of young people taking a wrong path in life. This article, and these kids strengthen your belief in mankind, and give you confidence that the world is in good hands. On March 12th, Canadian superstar Johnny Reid releases a new CD entitled *Fire it Up*. One of the lines in the single of the same name is *Ain't it crazy how one simple act of kindness can open up your eyes*. The students of Baltimore and Trespassey high schools have definitely opened up our eyes. These kids are the province's future. They are *changing the world*.

  • kelly van es
    March 03, 2012 - 12:52

    Sean Doyle was my highschool gym teacher and I babysat for this family when the kids were little. This story made me cry like a baby...amazing things really do happen, even in unfortunate circumstances.

  • Don Lester
    March 03, 2012 - 11:12

    What a beautiful gesture on the part of the teams from Baltimore and Trepassey .. There is a great lesson to learn here form the Baltimore and Trepassey teams. . That is a show of class of the highest order. They are all champions in my book.

  • Brenda O'Brien
    March 03, 2012 - 10:35

    Congratulations Mr. Bartlett on your wonderful story of the Emberly Family and the tournament in memory of their son, David. Everytime you turn on the radio and open a paper, all you can hear and read are stories and articles about the troubles and turmoil in the world. Finally, a story about sports which doesn't matter about how many millions the athetes make, how high the price of beer is at the concessions, the cost of tickets to get in to see a game, or a story of a coach or player's poor performance. But, for once, a story of young athletes respect for each other and respect for the memory of a former young athlete and his family. You have done the David Emberley Memorial Tournament, the parents, players, coaches and everyone involved proud by letting the world know their story. Well Done!!!

    • Carlson Emberley
      March 03, 2012 - 12:52

      Congratulations to Baltimore and Trepassey, a copy of this article should be printed and placed in all schools through Nl. This sportsmanship is not known through Canada. Kevin your commitment has not went on without notice you have been a winner.

  • Geraldine Langdon
    March 03, 2012 - 09:25

    WOW ..... I was moved to tears reading this article. These young girls are to be congratulated and commended for such a great act of human kindness. Geraldine

  • Jennifer Carter Frizzell
    March 03, 2012 - 08:20

    I am from Witless Bay and know some of these people. Both Mrs. Emberly and Mr. Doyle were my teachers in Mobile. This is a great story! So proud of all these girls!