From the locker room floor in Tyler, Texas to the snow covered mountain tops of Montana to the warm southern breeze in Miami, Florida, the University of New Orleans women\'s basketball coach Amy Champion has done more then just inspire her team, she has also inspired a city. After Hurricane Katrina damaged New Orleans, the University of New Orleans and the university\'s Lake Front Arena, Coach Champion\'s one track mind was set on playing the 2005-2006 basketball Season. This was only going to be Coach Champion\'s second season at the University of New Orleans. The journey would not be easy for the Coach and her Lady Privateers. It would be a season full of good times, tears, and fits of insanity. What Coach Amy Champion did not realize then was that her decision to keep her team together would do more then just give her team faith, but would give faith to people throughout New Orleans.\r\n There are a million different things that could be said about Coach Champion and her season. You could touch on the fact that her team had a losing record, lost four of their twelve players, and started off living in Tyler, Texas in a locker room. But what is more important to know about Coach Champion and her team are the things they overcame. The first forty-eight hours following Hurricane Katrina, Coach Champion had players spread out across the Southern portions of the country. After the hurricane Coach Champion said she felt a lot of \"uncertainty.\" That was the only word she said. She sat back in her folding chair in the small pod that is now her office to reminisce back to that week. \"I was uncertain about what I should do. Do I leave my team out to dry, with no school and no facility for us to play in and just wait for next season? Do I find an alternative school where my team can attend classes and keep playing? I feared making the wrong decision.\"\r\n Coach Champion decided to keep her team together so they could play their first season. The Monday following the hurricane, the team met at the University of Texas at Tyler. They trickled into the attendance office to enroll into classes that had started three weeks ago. They were welcomed with open arms after they had registered for classes. A couple of faculty members cooked the team a dinner, but after they ate the team was on their own. The housing Coach Champion had planned on for the team to stay in was not available, so her team was in Tyler, Texas, hundreds of miles away from their homes, with no place to sleep. The team ended up on the locker room floor on Red Cross cots in Tyler, Texas. The players did not seem to mind as much as the parents and coaches.\r\n \"Hey girls come around.\" Coach Champion told her players that had scattered out around the locker room making their cots and talking on their cell phones. The girls huddled around and put their arms around one another. \"I want you to know that this is not going to be a permanent situation.\" Coach Champion looked past her players out into the room full of cots. \"Tomorrow morning we are going out to find you girls another place to live.\" Tears fell from her eyes. There was a long moment of silence. The players all took turns hugging their coach who had worked so hard to get them to Tyler, Texas just so they could play. \"Let\'s pray....\" Coach Champion was always praying, thanking God for all the things she was able to do and asking for strength to do the things she feared we could not overcome. \r\n\"You know I don\'t have any regrets. As a result of the hurricane my team developed strong relationships. They rose to the challenge and faced adversity and still succeeded. Although we may not have a win loss record that represents it, we were true winners this season. We succeeded because we didn\'t give up; when we lost faith in ourselves, we maintained faith in each other and our purpose.\" Surviving the season became a team effort. \"It would have been easy to say that it was too hard and walk away, but we didn\'t give up.\" It is Coach Champion\'s positive attitude that draws strangers in. A woman with a plan and a dream faced adversity and overcame the odds. Complete strangers would walk up to Champion and thank her. I overheard one stranger tell her that just returning to the city with her team restored faith to them personally.\r\n In the beginning of December, things were not going smooth. What the team called \"The Katrina Curse\" seemed to carry on. After Christmas break two players did not return to the team. Nine players traveled to the tournament in Montana. The last night of the tournament the team and coaching staff were called to center court. Somewhere between the beginning of December and that night at the tournament the team had forgotten why they were still playing. They forgot why they were out there still wearing their royal blue and silver uniforms with New Orleans written across their chest. In front of a sold out crowd a long list of what the team overcame was read out loud. That night faith was restored to the hearts of each player on the team.\r\n Truth is, the team never lost faith; their faith was merely overshadowed by a series of unfortunate events. After hearing what the team over came, the sold out gymnasium of almost 4,000 people gave the team a standing ovation. Tears fell from every ones eyes. Instantly without knowing the team, 4,000 fans already had faith not only in a team, but also in a city. \"Looking back on that night to me... it meant a sign of survival. We had to maintain our path of faith, and after that night, faith was restored in our hearts for good.\" \r\n At the beginning of the Sun Belt Conference tournament in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, seven players emerged from a locker room dressed in their royal blue and silver uniforms. They had reached the end of a long season. That night the team tipped the ball off at 8:15 and in the blink on an eye, the last seconds were rolling off the clock and the final game horn was sounding. With heads hung the team shuffled off the court and back into the locker room. They sat with tears in their eyes. The season they thought would never end had finally come to a close.\r\n With nothing but confidence and faith, Amy Champion entered the locker room. Her head was held high, and her shoulders were pulled back. \"Everyone gather around,\" she said looking around at her players. \"Ya\'ll fought hard tonight. To be honest with you girls, after Hurricane Katrina I had a lot of schools offer me coaching jobs, but I am right where I want to be. I would not trade a single one of you for anything. And even though the scoreboard may not represent it, you are true winners. You had a chance to give up this season, but you kept working, you kept fighting.\" Her voice began to crack as she held back the tears. \"And I am so proud to have each and every one of you on my team.\" She took another long pause this time allowing the tears to fall. \"Lets pray. Our Father,...\" The Katrina Season had come to an end. It was time for a new start, a chance at a new year, and a new beginning. \r\nIt was truly a rough year. It seemed like every other day some new problem had emerged for Coach Champion, but through the tears and frustrations there were still moments to cherish. The team laughed more then they cried. \"Everyday we created new memories. From sleeping on the locker room floor at the University of Texas at Tyler to living with my staff, everyday was a new journey, and a new lesson to learn. From airplane rides where I was attacked by flying bags of peanuts to all the road trips, it was a season I could truly never forget.\" The moments that seemed to bring the team to tears only strengthened them in the long run. The laughter that the team shared only helped them become less like friends and more like sisters.\r\nAs our interview came to an end, I watched as Coach Champion reviewed the past months in her mind. Eight players remained along with three coaches. What is to become of this group? Only time can tell, but it will all come down to is remembering what they learned during their 2005-2006 Season, or what some players called \"The Katrina Season.\" It will all come down to faith.\r\n

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“[Untitled],” Hurricane Digital Memory Bank, accessed August 17, 2022, https://hurricanearchive.org/items/show/37944.

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