Leading by example on the court

As captain of the Spain Park Lady Jaguars basketball team her senior year, Melanie Harris didn’t expect to spend most of the season on the bench. In a game the day after Christmas, Harris went up for a layup and landed to hear a snap. When she found out what she hoped was just a painful sprain was a torn ACL, she said, “All I could do was cry.”

An injured knee kept her from running track and finishing her basketball season, but it didn’t stop her from being a leader. Though she couldn’t play alongside her basketball team, she supported them from the sidelines for the rest of the season. As it turned out, Harris wasn’t the only player who couldn’t play after getting hurt.

“This year we lost four out of five starters to injury,” she said. “It got pretty difficult at the end of the season. When we lost the third or fourth girl, it wasn’t about winning or losing games anymore.”

Instead, she focused her energy on inspiring the younger players to build up the program for future years.

“I cheered them on. I didn’t want to be another coach. I just wanted to be encouraging,” she said.

Even though she didn’t have the ideal season as a basketball captain, Harris said her favorite part was the chance to lead by example.

“I knew that my demeanor during the game could change the way the girls played,” Harris said.

And despite still recovering from her knee injury, Harris said she’ll keep playing sports when she goes to Auburn University to study chemical engineering.

“I’m going to try to walk onto the track team, and if that doesn’t work out I’ll definitely play intramurals,” she said.