Sports have the power to test resolve, quicken pulses and break hearts. They also can be a way in.
Count it among their gifts … providing common ground from which relationships grow. Acceptance matters, especially for teenagers, and being part of a team can offer a fast track.
Examples exist in every sport and on every level. One wears No. 3 on University High School’s super-sectional bound basketball team.
Logan Christensen moved to Central Illinois in August. He had left the area in third grade when his father, John, was transferred to Lincoln, Neb., through his job with State Farm Insurance. Returning as a high school junior would have challenges.
Would any of his former Towanda Elementary School classmates remember him? Would he remember them? After helping his Lincoln (Neb.) East High School team to the state tournament as a sophomore, would he fit in on a new team at a new school?
“I moved here about week before school started,” Christensen said. “My first day here, I got in this gym with a couple of kids and it just went from there. I met my friend group and it carried on.
“I came in and people saw that I wanted to work hard. They took me in for that. I think that’s what opened doors.”
Christensen burst through the doorway with spirit, intensity and bit of bravado. Coach Andrew McDowell sums it all up as “energy,” saying Christensen, “Breathes life into the rest of the team.”
He is the passionate guy in the middle of the pregame huddle, screaming and jumping to get his teammates fired up. His voice is loud and his eyes wide.
He claims that a year earlier on that state tournament team in Nebraska, he was “kind of the quiet guy,” deferring to older teammates.
Now look at him.
“Some people think I’m crazy,” he said. “I’m OK with it.”
Christensen is a starting guard on a 24-9 team that has advanced farther than any at U High on the Class 3A level. The Pioneers face No. 2-state ranked Chicago Bogan on Tuesday in the Joliet Central Super-Sectional.
The youngest of John and Staci Christensen’s two sons, U High’s curly haired No. 3 has “found his place” through basketball, said McDowell, who added, “He’s getting to build relationships and he has memories now with this group that will last a lifetime as well.”
None of it seemed likely when Christensen learned he was leaving Lincoln. He said the news “stung,” and to his credit, John Christensen had tried to avoid uprooting him.
“Being transferred here was proposed to him about three years ago,” Logan said of his father. “He was doing all he could to keep me where I was. But it came to the point in the company where they were like, ‘You have to do this.’
“It was a family effort. Honestly, the first week I was here I was sad and missing all my friends. But the more I spent time with the team and everyone here, it was really not that big of a deal.”
McDowell will tell you the players “embraced” Christensen and junior Drew Wollenschlager, who transferred in from Normal West.
Wollenschlager knew some of the players from having played against them or, in the case of senior Nate Torres, with him on a summer team in junior high.
“I didn’t know how it would be,” he said. “But as soon as I got here Coach McDowell was really good to me. Everyone was good to me and we all fit in perfectly. We’re all brothers.”
Christensen and Wollenschlager connected on social media shortly before Christensen’s arrival. They hit it off and “bonded really well,” Wollenschlager said.
Told of Christensen’s claim of being “the quiet guy” on his previous team, Wollenschlager smiled and said, “He’s the loudest kid on our team and I love it.”
Consider Christensen the soundtrack for U High’s noisy postseason. Sports gave him an in and he’s run with it.
Long live sports.