The measurement for athletic success varies from person to person.
For some, nothing less than a championship will suffice, while others might count simply finishing as a personal victory.
Then there are some, like Wil Sanders, for whom just showing up to play means as much as any title.
A seventh-grade player on the Evans Middle School basketball team, Wil suffers from cerebral palsy, a genetic disorder that affects muscle tone and hampers motor skills.
“When I tried out for the basketball team, I didn’t know what to expect,” said the 13-year-old. “When I made it, I was as shocked as anyone. I was like ‘What just happened?’”
What happened was that Evans Middle basketball coach Garth Thomas looked beyond Wil’s physical limitations to see a young man with a desire to compete as strong as any other player.
“When tryouts came, Wil showed a lot of toughness, a lot of courage,” Thomas said. “I could just tell he needed to be a part of what we were doing.”
Like his son, Chuck Sanders said he was a little shocked that Wil made the team, but also understood Thomas’ point of view.
“Wil puts his heart into everything he does and gives it 100 percent,” said Sanders, who is an adaptive P.E. instructor for the Columbia County school system. “Effort will carry you a long way.”
Wil didn’t see much playing time during the Knights 9-4 season. His contributions primarily consisted of encouraging his team.
“He was always doing his best to pump up the team,” said eighth-grade teammate Davis Addyman. “He would always give us speeches during halftime to get us motivated.”
Though Wil said he enjoyed his role as a team motivator, he intends to keep practicing during the offseason to improve his basketball skills.
“I’m going to keep playing during Christmas,” he said. “I’m going to keep working on it.”
Regardless of his offseason workouts, Thomas said Wil will have a place on his team.
“His attitude and the way he kept our kids loose ... was a great fit,” Thomas said. “The door is always open for Wil.”