[Editor's note: Thank you to Ralston teacher David Dong for many of the photos that accompany this article.]
When you think about it, it wasn't that long ago that the players on the Stanford University women's basketball team were middle school students themselves.
So it was a lay-up for the athletes and coach of the number-one-ranked team in the nation to talk to students at Ralston Middle School and impart some wisdom about relationships, hard work, athletic competition, discipline and, on the day before Thanksgiving, being grateful.
Coach Tara VanDerveer got things started off with getting the students to give a rousing split-down-the-middle-of-the-bleachers chant "GO-STANFORD" then introduced her players who addressed the jam-packed gymnasium in teams of two.
The players each chose a topic near and dear to them---topics ranged from discipline and peer pressure to bullying and balance.
"You guys all have a lot going on, like homework, school, clubs, and sports," said guard Sara James.
"So it's important to spend equal amounts of time on everything in your life. That balance takes commitment and you need to be organized," James added.
Coach VanDerveer stressed the importance of showing respect and not getting caught up in negativism.
"These young women are in an extremely competitive environment, both academically and athletically," said VanDerveer.
"The things they are talking to you about today are real--it comes from their hearts. They have all had to work hard to get here and it's hard to stay there."
VanDerveer pointed out that many of the players have younger siblings, some of whom are about the ages of Ralston students.
"So when they talk to you, it's like they are talking to their younger brothers and sisters," the coach added.
Of course, the assembly also included some basketball drills and skills deftly demonstrated by the players, including the "BEEF" drill, that VanDerveer explained is an acronym they use when doing shooting drills.
"B--is for Balance, E--is for eyes on target, E--is for elbow under ball, and F--is for follow through," explanied VanDeveer.
The team was invited by Ralston counselor Teresa Bergin, whose daughter was a member of the Cardinal basketball squad from 2002-2007.