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By Rebecca K. Oliver

Growing up, I was encouraged to participate in a variety of activities. Like many of you, my parents probably felt at times that they were a chauffeur for my multiple extracurricular activities. I was involved in a variety of activities including choir, handbells, school plays, volleyball, basketball, softball, and academic meets. These activities offered much enjoyment and exercise throughout the years of my youth.

My favorite sport while growing up was basketball. I began playing basketball on a team during my 5th grade year and played through 8th grade. I am still friends with some of my teammates from those early years. I then continued to play basketball throughout my high school career. I still have strong memories from my years in the gym. The smell of wintergreen lifesavers bring back memories of injury, wrapped ankles, and a fragrant ointment used to ease the pain. The word "horse" does not only mean a four-legged mammal. And the creaking of a wooden gym floor still brings a smile to my face and makes me want to pick up a ball and shoot. I still hear the voice of my coach in my head giving words of advice and encouragement.

From 5th grade to 8th grade, I had one coach, Mr. Honeck. This amazing coach taught me a lot about the fundamentals of the game and about the teamwork necessary to be both a successful player and part of a successful team. Some of those lessons were enjoyable. Some other lessons . . . not so much! My teammates and I did not always embrace the hours of conditioning required to play with the stamina necessary to come out of a match victorious. We did not always enjoy the “drills” that we participated in during practice. We wanted to get straight to playing the game and the scrimmage. We did not always see the purpose in running drills to break a press, until we were confronted with that scenario in a game. Coach Honeck insisted that we learn the fundamentals of the game. We needed to master dribbling. We needed to learn how to successfully pass the ball without the opposing team coming up with a “steal.” It was important for us to put the team first and “work the ball around” the court instead of always taking a shot. We needed to learn fundamental skills and practice a PIVOT.

SELF-CARE Tip: Go outside and get some exercise! Whether that is a walk, a bike ride, a pick up game of basketball, roller skating with the kids, or playing a game of tag; get outside and move! The sunlight and movement will be a positive contribution to body and soul.

In basketball, the PIVOT can be an offensive or a defensive move. Sometimes a PIVOT is used when you have picked up your dribble, but need to avoid or escape the defensive player who is guarding you. Using a PIVOT allows you to see other options and opens up new lines of sight as you look to pass the ball to a teammate. The PIVOT can also be an offensive move as you change directions to open up a clear line of sight to sink a shot and score a basket for your team. A PIVOT is changing directions and it is a useful fundamental skill in basketball.

Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield said, “A key factor in success is knowing when to pivot, to rethink your plan, while still maintaining the mission.” This is true in basketball and is also true in life. Over the past few weeks, you have been called upon to rethink your plan while keeping the same mission of serving students, families, and school communities. School Social Workers are still committed to building on student strengths, to providing needed services to students, to contributing to academic growth through promoting social and emotional development, to addressing inequity and social justice issues, to engaging families, to giving voice to marginalized populations, and to overcoming barriers to learning. However, due to the current pandemic, School Social Workers have had to PIVOT, and take a new approach to providing these services in their school communities.

As you PIVOT and take a new approach, perhaps these four fundamentals will offer you a new line of sight:

1. Focus on Flexibility – The last few weeks have required us all to stretch! We have needed to become even more flexible in how we do things. Putting a positive spin on this thought, flexibility allows us to be more nimble and builds strength.

2. Channel Creativity – As we have moved to a virtual platform, creativity has soared! Sometimes when we have to make a change, this change allows us to be free from how things have typically been done and allows us to take a new, creative approach.

3. Set a Schedule – The change to a virtual format and remaining “safe at home,” has created a blurred line between work and home for many. Setting a schedule and prioritizing necessary activities will allow for a sense of control/expectancy as well as ensure that we set healthy boundaries between our time working and our time with family.

4. Spotlight Self-Care – Besides setting a schedule to balance work and rest, shinning a spotlight on self-care is important. Building activities or times of rest into your schedule is critical so that you are able to protect your own well-being. After all, we cannot serve others when we are worn out!

SELF-CARE Tip: Plan a 10 minute break. Grab a cup of coffee or glass of tea, prop your feet up, and give yourself a "peace break". Take deep, cleansing breaths and focus on your successes of the day.

Coach Honeck’s commitment to fundamentals helped me become a successful basketball player in my youth. I was proud of my accomplishments as a player, winning numerous MVP trophies and celebrating multiple, undefeated seasons under his coaching. In those early years, I learned the value of hard work, the importance of teamwork, the character to lose gracefully, and how to win with humility. Perhaps through these difficult times, we too will learn some valuable lessons. I feel confident that we will come out of this season of life with a strong commitment to the merit of teamwork, the value of hard work, the importance of sound character, and the usefulness of learning to PIVOT.


This blog is dedicated in loving memory of Coach William “Bill” Henry Honeck, Sr.

(February 15, 1944 – April 19, 2020)


Rebecca K. Oliver is the Executive Director of the School Social Work Association of America. Prior to becoming the Executive Director, Mrs. Oliver served on the SSWAA Board of Directors and has over 20 years experience working as a school social worker. In her current role with SSWAA, Rebecca is able to support school social workers across the nation and advocate for the profession about which she is so passionate. When not working, Rebecca enjoys singing, running, reading, doing home-improvement, and outdoor activities including walks with her two "fur-babies," Abby and Buddy.

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