The Other Team in Lauren Hill’s Life

It’s likely you’ve heard Lauren Hill’s story.  She was a freshman basketball player at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati who had a profound impact on the world around her. In fact, she finished second in the voting for the 2014 Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year.

Lauren was named to the all-conference first team in the Heartland Athletic Conference, received an Honorary Doctorate from Mount St. Joseph and was even on the cover of a Wheaties cereal box.

And all of this happened not because she had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, but because of how she lived through that diagnosis, how she touched others. Lauren Hill was courage personified.

But, oddly enough, I’m writing to bring attention to one of Lauren’s opponents – the women’s basketball team from Hiram College of Hiram, Ohio, 300 miles from Cincinnati.

First, as Lauren’s cancer progressed, it became clear that her window to actually play in a game was closing. So the Hiram College team agreed to move up their scheduled meeting with Mount St. Joseph to two weeks before it had been originally scheduled, despite the problems that would create. Next, the game had been scheduled as a Hiram home game, but Hiram again made the sacrifice for Lauren, agreeing to play at Mount St. Joseph. (The game got such press that it later had to be moved to Xavier University’s gym, a much larger venue.)

As I read the story of the Hiram women’s team, it certainly got my attention. But then I saw the Steve Hartman piece you can view below. Less than a minute into that game, Lauren scored and the crowd erupted. The Mount St. Joseph women gathered around Lauren and celebrated. They couldn’t contain those feelings. Everyone knew it would be her final game.

But then, in the CBS video, the camera panned to the Hiram women, who themselves were crying tears of joy in celebration of Lauren and her victory. They were the opposing team, the enemy. One Hiram player, when asked about the team’s reaction to Lauren’s basket, said: “The most happy feeling I’ve ever felt over an opponent’s scoring.”

I think the Hiram women understand some things about sports – about life – that more of us could learn.

What’s the point? Usually I have one and try to get right to it. But, with the story of Lauren Hill and the Hiram College women, I’m impacted on several levels. Of course I see Christ-like selflessness. Real sportsmanship. I think of the parents of the Hiram women and their work in raising their daughters to display such character. I marvel at the culture that must be in place at Hiram and, in particular, what their coach, Emily Hays, must be teaching her team.

Lauren Hill died on April 10, 2015.

This year, the Hiram College women’s basketball team will start their season by playing in the Lauren Hill Tipoff Classic.



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