The McKay Royal Scots' record is currently 0 - 18 as of Feb. 4, 2019. A video that Coach Dean Sanderson posted on Twitter went viral getting over 60,000 views and growing. I have to admit that I almost came down to tears listening to the interview on the John Canzano Sports Radio Show -- 102.9 FM. It was such a great interview about McKay basketball.
On Thursday January 31, 2019, the McKay High School boys basketball team packed up the bus, including the girls' team, and they headed toward the mountain pass ... Summit High School in Bend, Oregon, was the destination. After a long three-hour drive, they arrived to play against yet another tough team in the Mountain Valley Conference of Oregon. When the game was over, the score read, McKay 13, Summit 61.
"It was one of our worst games of the season," Sanderson told Canzano.
Head Coach Dean Sanderson is on his 8th year of coaching at McKay. Before Dean's first year of coaching at this school, Matt Espinoza (Coach Noza), had coached at McNary High School -- two years as an assistant coach and two years as a head coach. It was a time when the schools were making budget cuts and there were no openings for teaching positions at McNary. Matt was hired at McKay and partnered up with Dean as an assistant coach.
"Matt Espinoza and I made a commitment to this school and the basketball program from the start. We've been coaching together for 8 years," Sanderson said.
Year-round the two coaches have put in some selfless volunteer hours to help any McKay basketball player that looks for improvement in skill-sets. The NE Salem Area has a large population of low-income families and leads in diversity in Salem, Oregon. It's a tough place to coach and every year is a challenge to compete in a strong conference.
In the eight years these two have coached together and being around the NE Salem environment, I think they must have been feeling a little down on the ride back from Summit. On the radio show, Coach Sanderson admitted feeling frustrated because of the 13 - 61 loss to Summit. And then there was L. J. who was helping out as a team manager. He was sitting across the aisle from Edson, who plays forward on the basketball team. These two boys wanted to cheer up the rest of the team in the bus.
"I heard them start to sing and Edson was playing the Ukulele. My first thought was, why are these young Islanders singing 'Country Roads' by John Denver? So I had them start over and I started recording them. I just pushed the button on my phone -- and I can't sing so I couldn't join in. As I listened I realized what was really important. It wasn't about us having a record of 0 - 17 at that time and getting blown out, it was about how these kids and their culture could move past some hard times," Coach Sanderson told John Canzano.
Canzano stated that everyone was telling him to go watch this video of these high school kids from McKay. They have not won a game all season! People were saying that he was going to love it. And they were right, because John Canzano loved it so much that he reached out to Coach Sanderson for an interview.
John went on to say that he even told some people at his church about this video and the McKay basketball program.
John continued with a few words. When he was fifteen years old he never thought about how having a losing season could be such a powerful lesson. But now he understands. These McKay kids have found a way to come together and keep their heads up and be proud. Every year is different with teams and coaches, I'm sure McKay has had winning seasons in the past, and I'm sure they will again. Learning through experiences that don't come out the way you want them to is what's important. I think this McKay team is such a great story. John added that he thought Dean and his coaching staff were great!
Coach Sanderson explained about why he liked coaching at McKay High School. It's times like this that make him proud of being part of this program. These are just the type of kids we have and their cultures that I've grown to love. These kids don't give up despite their record. It's been a lot of fun with the video that went viral. We will be practicing and getting ready for the next game and they will be working hard putting in one-hundred percent the next four quarters they play.
"It doesn't look like your team will win a game this season, am I correct? I don't want to put pressure on your team either, but I think all of Oregon is rooting for McKay after this. I wouldn't want to be the next team that plays McKay. If anyone sees these kids, give them a high-five. There's coaches at McKay that have figured it out," John Canzano said.
I've been writing stories on McKay over the years -- resilient athletes. I'm definitely a supporter of McKay basketball. I'm always impressed with some of the kids that are from the NE Salem Area, what some of them go through and how they find ways to get past rough patches in their lives. They find ways to overcome -- truly inspiring.
Wishing the McKay Royal Scots and the coaching staff the best this season. Come out and cheer them on, they put on a good game no matter who they play. Go Scots!
Any questions? I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org ... thanks.