More Than Just Champions

- Contribution by Conception seminarian Herby Labenz

Down by twelve at the half of the semi-final match against a motivated Sacred Heart Seminary basketball team, the Conception Seminary Sons of Thunder basketball players huddled together to try to figure out how to turn the tide against a team that had our number the entire first half.  As I leaned in close to listen to words of wisdom and inspiration, I began to reflect on how close this team had become to me. At first, I began to recognize the bond that was formed through the sacrifices my teammates and I had made through the countless afternoon and evening hours of giving our time and talents to achieve the goal, of a repeated championship of the Mundelein Basketball Tournament, that was desired by both ourselves and the whole school.

I was then brought back to a defining moment of what this team was truly about.  One night during practice, half of the team was told to run four wind-sprints for constantly missing wide-open layups, but, as a sign of unity and support, each member of the team ended up running. Then, the true reality and meaning of this basketball team hit me.  The reason I treasured this team so much was because my teammates and I were helping to form each other to become the men and priests that God was calling us to become.  Whether it be helping to hold each other accountable, encouraging one another through positive encouragement, giving one’s all for a common goal, or sharing countless laughs and joys with each other, each member of the Sons of Thunder basketball team had a great fraternal care for his fellow teammate.

As we were broke the huddle with a “BOOM THUNDER,” I saw the fire in the eyes’ of my brother seminarians, and I realized that many of them had just come to see the same reality that I had just hit me.
The Conception Seminary College Sons of Thunder ended up defeating Sacred Heart Seminary 31-29, which was then followed by a 45-30 defeat of Mundelein Seminary the next morning to take home the championship trophy for the second year in a row.  Yet, as I made mention to in the title, our championship victory was a sign of a great reality.  We as a team had come together to help each other grow to have a greater realization for what it means to be a holy priest of Jesus Christ.

Pictured: Michael Brungardt, John Linnebur, Clay Kimbro, Drew Hoffman, Herby Labenz, Garett Burns, Christian May