At Keystone, teamwork takes many forms

Feb 17 2023

At Keystone, teamwork takes many forms

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
-Helen Keller

Late last Wednesday after school ended and most students had gone home, I heard some Upper School students outside my office. Seniors Andy and Lorenzo, junior Ishan, and sophomore Julia, the first team of Keystone’s Academic WorldQuest (AWQ) club had come to Founders’ Hall to psych themselves up for the next day’s competition by viewing the trophies collected by previous AWQ teams and last year’s national championship cup. Julia, Andy, and Lorenzo had competed on that national champion team, and wished to return to DC again this year as regional winners.

Keystone has dominated AWQ for over a decade now. Before last week, we had won 12 consecutive regional championships, and taken the national title twice. Julia’s admitted nervousness last Wednesday reflected the months of preparation the team has put in this year as well as the pressure to repeat as regional champs. When Director of Development and Alumni Relations Adriana Villafranca and I host Alumni Reunions on Zoom, one of the first questions they ask is “How did Academic WorldQuest do this year?” When they hear that the team came in first place again, they pump their fists and cheer.

This year’s top team did not disappoint. Not only did they come in first-another foursome came in second place, and yet another group earned third place. Keystone’s AWQ team swept this year’s competition, and for the thirteenth year in a row, we will send a team to the national competition in April in Washington, DC. Thanks to Head of Upper School Bill Spedding for coaching the team.

Beyond the glories of winning hardware, what do students learn by playing on teams like Academic WorldQuest? For one, they discover how to sublimate their sense of self for a greater good. Keystone’s students are extraordinary individuals-they shine in the classroom, on the stage, and the fields and courts of play. They push themselves to excel, and they work hard to accomplish their lofty goals. Again and again, we read in the weekly Keystone Communiqué where our young people have earned accolades in a variety of fields and endeavors. They impress us with their dedication, their drive, and their successes.

Serving on a team enables Cobras to take that same determination they manifest on their own and join with their classmates and schoolmates to accomplish something they cannot do individually. We applaud when one of our students receives recognition as the best Model UN Delegate; we clap just as loudly when a group earns the number one Delegation award.

Playing on a team enables highly independent students like those at Keystone to share their strengths with others and in the process understand how to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its individual parts. They learn how to develop chemistry and work with others to create something new and wondrous.

A recent 7th grade girls basketball game demonstrated this beautifully. As our girls enjoyed an insurmountable lead over another team, one player who had already scored many points passed up open shots repeatedly to pass to a teammate who had not yet had a goal. The young woman’s determination to see her scoreless teammate enjoy the satisfaction of sinking a shot showed true teamwork in action and brought a smile to the faces of Keystone fans.

This year for the first time in school history, Keystone fields third- and fourth-grade basketball teams in league play. They practice before school during the week and take to the courts on Saturday mornings. Thanks go to Head of Lower School Mallory Matthews, Athletic Director D’Andre Montgomery, and the coaches-Eric Fowler, Robert Mezquiti, Nurse Monica Gutierrez, and Jalen Nutt.

Watching the teams play has been pure, unadulterated joy. The coaches have done a wonderful job of teaching the young Cobras the fundamentals of the game-like how to shoot, pass, and play defense. They also teach them how to be gracious in winning and losing. The Saturday morning games bring children and parents together in community, and our fans cheer as loud as any.

More than the wins and losses, though, our young students continue to learn what it means to be on a team. They see that you can derive as much delight from the successes of your fellow players as you can from your own accomplishments. It’s wonderful to see the young people play; it’s equally heartwarming to observe them in the bleachers afterwards reveling in their post-game snack and just being with one another. They come to realize that as the logo on one of our recent Middle School T-shirts says, “Together, we can.”

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