Considered by many to be the premier event of Raider competition, the cadets race to help each other to traverse a rope bridge that they tied themselves during practice Sept. 19. Photographs by Jessica L. Marsala.
Considered by many to be the premier event of Raider competition, the cadets race to help each other to traverse a rope bridge that they tied themselves during practice Sept. 19. Photographs by Jessica L. Marsala.

'Insulate not isolate'

Originally Appeared in : 9923-11/7/19

Raider Team cadets find strength in standing on the shoulders and faith of their brothers 


  SAVANNAH--Grasping him by the boots, their faces grimaced with the exertion of bearing the physical weight of another, two high school teens lift their teammate up—but just far enough for him to make contact with the pair of hands stretched over the wall above. Then, making sure he’s fully cleared the ledge, they repeat the process and prepare to hoist the next in line.


This is one example of the type of teamwork required of the high school athletes on the Benedictine Military School (BC) JROTC Raiders Team in Savannah. Their competitions consist of five events that test not only individual physical and mental strength but also the strength of the athletes’ trust and faith in each other. Insulate, not isolate: That’s their team’s motto.


“They’ve got to be able to work together. So I do think a lot of what we do is based on a lot of faith values: You have to love one another; you have to trust each other,” says Katherine Knight, one of the BC Raider Team’s four coaches. “You have to…put the team before yourself. You hope other teams are that way. I just think because what they do is so physically demanding, they won’t be successful if they don’t.”


For example, during what some consider the premier event of Raider competition, the cadets race to help each other to traverse a rope bridge that they tie themselves.


Meeting their target times—the varsity team can complete the task in approximately one minute, four seconds while the junior varsity strives to finish in under two minutes—requires everyone to participate and doesn’t allow much time for discussion, empty chit chat or fooling around.


The cadets rehearse the maneuver so it becomes second nature; they can perform it without their coaches’ input, as is required of them during competition; and so that the pressure of having an audience doesn’t faze any of them.


Prayer before Raider competition

This is the beginning of a new Raider Meet. God has given us this Raider Meet to do as we will. We can waste it or draw new lines. What we do at this meet is important because we are exchanging 8 hours of our lives. When 5 o'clock comes we want it to be Gain, not loss. Good, not evil. Success, not failure. In order that we do not regret the price we paid Because the Future is all about drawing new lines!

-Former B.C. principal Dennis Daly

And when things do not go smoothly as possible, their coaches hold each of the brothers—as the teammates affectionately refer to each other—in the “Raider family” to a higher standard, teaching them to not only accept responsibility for their mistakes but also learn from them. In fact, before every competition, the cadets say that the team prays a prayer that encourages them to be thankful for both the successes they may have as well as the losses.


“So when it’s a family, and in a family you got to learn to speak the truth with love,” says Raider Team Head Coach Kevin Knight, Katherine’s husband. “So we try to carry that forward. We’re not going to use kind of relativism or ‘it’s okay for you to do this. We speak the truth with love.’”


Such a high standard is not set merely so the team does better in the next competition and wins more accolades: It won its first state championship Oct. 26 and even improved on its 2018 performance at the Raider National Championships, placing 7th out of 22 teams in the All Service Championship Nov. 1 and 5th out of 32 teams at the All-Army Championship Nov. 2-3.


Head Coach Kevin Knight addresses the Raider family after practice Sept. 19.

Rather, it’s also about raising the bar for the athletes’ behavior as citizens: Coach Stephen Suhr says this distinguishes the main goal of JROTC in contrast to that of ROTC, which focuses on preparing participants for future military service.


“We like to think they [students] come to B.C. as freshmen as boys, and they graduate as truly well-rounded young men,” said Tom Palmer, B.C.’s athletic director who also noted that their goal this year was for 82 percent of cadets to participate in at least one athletic activity while at the school.


Michelle Kroll, the Director of Catholic Education and Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Savannah, agrees that playing a sport is about more than just winning.


This philosophy plays a large factor in the diocese’s decision to request March 2020 training from the Play Like a Champion program, a national educational series first begun in 2006 to give coaches, parents and athletic directors the resources to be more effective and to “promote a positive sports culture,” as per its website.


“My hope is that they remember why we do this [participate in sports], and that we want people to compete. We want kids to compete,” Kroll said. “We want them to do their best and use their gifts and talents. And we want them to win. But we want them to understand that that comes from God.”


She continued, “You do your part. God gave you gifts and talents, and you do your part to fully utilize them. And if you don’t win, it’s okay. You do better the next time, or it wasn’t meant to be this time. Or, you keep trying. You keep making the effort, and you’re a witness for God on the field and off the field. So that’s the hope. But the truth of it is that I hope parents really embrace the message as well.”


Her bias as a certified personal trainer aside, Coach Katherine Knight believes that participating in a sport is especially vital for boys on their way to becoming men because it tempers the boys’ energies and potential behavioral problems and encourages better sleep and academic work.


During practice Sept. 19, a cadet on the Benedictine Military School JROTC Raider team helps his teammate to clip onto the rope he will traverse. Photograph by Jessica L. Marsala.

“I think it instills a whole lot of values that they wouldn’t get if they didn’t play sports: learning how to deal with others, learning how to deal with people who maybe don’t have the same thought process as you,” she said, later noting that being on the Raider Team is a bit like being on a Ranger team: Everyone has a specific role to play and not everyone can excel at everything. “Learning to deal with people who are not as physically adept as you but they’re trying, I mean there’s compassion for others.”


Cadet Austin Knight, the son of coaches Katherine and Kevin and a senior on the Raider Team, echoed the sentiment.


“Faith is important because we have the blessings to come out and do this—in some places they don’t,” he said, also noting he appreciates when local clergy like Father Jason Adams, who now serves in Valdosta, has accompanied them to competitions and helped them to grow as brothers and men. “And we can freely practice our faith at this school which we bring into sports, and we have to be thankful for the different characteristics and abilities that we’ve been given. And that’s a big part of this sport because everyone’s important in different ways.”

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