The athletic program has always been strong at Gem State Adventist Academy in Caldwell, Idaho, and basketball has been a big part of that. Through the years, the Gem State Jaguars have participated in various interscholastic groups, but it has been almost 10 years since they were a member team of the state league.
During in the 2019–2020 school year, Jeremy Perkins, GSAA athletic director, petitioned the state athletic association for readmittance. Once approved, Perkins petitioned to consider making allowances for Sabbath. This entire process of petitions, presentations and consideration took almost a year. In the end, the league granted both petitions, thanks to Perkins’ ongoing efforts as well as the officials being familiar with the Sabbath precedent and accommodations set by Portland Adventist Academy in Oregon.
Amid the pandemic, questions remained about what a basketball season would look like. The association developed a set of guidelines and requirements to allow the athletes to play with the hope everyone could be kept safe and healthy.
One of the requirements was no fans at the games. Parents and friends made the best of it, thanks to one of GSAA’s very supportive volunteers, Harold Becker. At the beginning of the school year, Becker made it his goal to obtain and learn the equipment needed for livestreaming events, thus bringing GSAA to the community when the community could not come to campus.
The season proceeded successfully. By the end, GSAA boys ranked high enough to be invited to the district playoffs. As promised, the games in which GSAA were to play were scheduled outside of the Sabbath hours.
The boys’ team advanced to play for third place. Although in the end they lost, GSAA students, staff and families were proud of the athleticism and, more importantly, sportsmanship of the players. In addition, senior Caleb Smith was chosen to play on the all-conference team and, from there, selected to play in the senior all-star game. Again, the Sabbath hours were taken into consideration when scheduling practices and games.
“Sports provide such great opportunities to learn life lessons,” explains Perkins. “Developing the character to pick up when you fall and deal with ups and downs is something that will serve whether on the basketball court or on the job. Teamwork is another important skill for many areas of life.”
As for sportsmanship, it is a priority, particularly as GSAA’s teams have opportunity to witness while interacting with other schools. “And," says Perkins, “this starts with the coach. The coach has to model it.”
GSAA participates in multiple sports in addition to basketball, including volleyball, cross-country, baseball and golf.
GSAA’s mission is “Engaging in Service, Training for Leadership, Preparing for Eternity.” The athletic program is one of the many ways staff and students strive to fulfill that mission.