Robert Donica


I’m going to tell you a story about my high school sports career. Wait! Don’t go! This isn’t a story about how great I was at basketball. It’s actually a story about how average I was, but our team leader was exceptional. And it made all the difference in the world.

There is no I in TEAM

I remember my basketball coach telling us that as we went into my first season on Varsity. I was a freshman, terrified and excited all at once. I knew I would be riding more pine than I wanted, but given the opportunity I would play my heart out every second I was on the court. It was in the game against Triton Central that I got more than a few minutes of play. Fouls came often and early, and some of our best players would need some bench time. I was up! I nearly passed out as I stood at the scorekeeper’s bench waiting for a break in the action. HONK! The loud buzzer rang in my head as I rushed onto the court to find who I would be guarding. “You’ll be fine. Just relax,” my friend Jill said. Could she tell my heart rate had reached a level more accurately described as a vibration than a beat? Probably. Jill Morton was one of the best players in the state, and I was just barely good enough to land on Varsity. But Jill never let on if she doubted my ability to perform. She was not only a great player, but a great person.


The whistle blew and it was game on. After a few seconds of feeling disoriented, I fell into the rhythms of pass, shoot, rebound, run, guard, rebound we had practiced a million times. Jill could hit a gnat from a hundred feet with a bounce pass. Suddenly, standing near the free throw line on offense, I was the gnat. Jill fired a pass to me and yelled, “Shoot it!” I did what she told me to do. Nothing but net! I’m sure the look on my face (and on the face of my team mates) was utter shock, but not Jill. She jumped for joy, slapped my hand, and grinned from ear to ear. “Do it again,” she said.

I did do it again. Five more times to be exact. While the starters were seething on the bench, Jill was encouraging me to shoot, screen, rebound, and pass. Jill, even as a freshman, could drain a three better than most senior boys. She really was amazing to watch. But we were winning, and Jill was more than happy to let someone share the limelight. She didn’t have to do it, but she knew it would be good for my long term growth as a team member. I’ll never forget that game, or how my friend Jill taught me what it means to be a team player. Later that season I managed to land a spot as a starter, to which Jill Morton I owe a debt of gratitude.

There’s Still No I in TEAM

I never became a state ranked player like Jill – who eventually played pro ball – but the effects of having a wildly talented yet stunningly humble team leader has never left me. Thanks Jill. It was on this example that our 5th core value was built. Some days you got it, some days you don’t. Pass the ball. Some days a newbie is draining jump shots. Cheer for them. Some days you need to take the ball and fight like hell. Lean on your teammates. We cannot change the real estate world if we aren’t playing like a cohesive team. Now I’m in Jill’s spot. I’ve been on top, but my favorite role is seeing others reach new goals, learn new things, and raise their expectations. I just hope I can do it with the grace and intelligence of my dear friend.

Good luck out there,