FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — A local, undefeated junior high school basketball team found a new challenge Saturday on Fort Leonard Wood — they rappelled down the 45-foot Warrior Tower.
The event provided a chance for the students from Laquey Middle School in Laquey, Missouri, to continue to “build team cohesion and confidence, while exposing the team to additional challenges” before they move on to high school, said Mark Farley, who, alongside fellow coach Curtis Hendrix, helped the team reach a 10-0 record this year in a local youth league. The players also went undefeated in their school season and won the Frisco League Junior High School Tournament.
Cadre from Company E, 701st Military Police Battalion provided instruction and supervised the experience for the students. It was a nice opportunity to play a small, but important role in these teammates’ lives, said Capt. Taylor Huddlestun, Company E commander.
“The Warrior Tower is also referred to as the confidence tower,” Huddlestun said. “The confidence the students gained while facing their fear of heights will primarily help them to overcome struggles or bad days on the (basketball) court.”
None of the six members of the team who participated Saturday had ever rappelled before, and the first of the group to come down the tower was Kayden Hendrix, one of the team’s point guards.
“It was scary at first, but as soon as you get going, you feel comfortable,” he said.
Hendrix said he liked the teamwork aspect in rappelling.
“You have to communicate with the person at the bottom holding the rope,” he said.
One of the other team members, Kole Storie, was rappelling on his 14th birthday. He said he also thought it was “scary at first,” but it was a good time.
“It gave me a lot of respect for the military — how tough those guys are, how much they have to do,” he said.
Farley, who has been on the coaching team for eight years, said a small school like Laquey typically must have students who will “play up” a grade or an age group in order to field a team. To be this successful, the coaches have tried to instill a few lessons into their players — lessons that can carry over into life.
“Any team can beat another team on any given day,” Farley said. “We witness this every March, when the NCAA Basketball Tournament is played. So, what we have tried to do is really teach them three things. One, that this is not and has never been about today, but the future — their high school years and beyond; two, there is always someone out there working just as hard or harder than you; and three, the difference between elite and good is usually the mental aspects — confidence, toughness, a can-do attitude, perseverance, etc. — not the physical skills and talents for the sport.”