What makes a team that won five games last season win 17 games a year later with nearly the same personnel?
One word: “Ubuntu.”
When Thomas Dale hired coach Keyode Rogers last June, athletic director Ricky Talman knew that a culture change was needed. That’s exactly what the Knights got, and so much more.
“Ubuntu” is a African proverb that simply means “humanity.” It is most often translated as “I am because we are.” Rogers discovered the phrase back in his early coaching days, when he coached girls’ soccer in Orange County. It was a phrase then used by Lynchburg College’s soccer team, but it fit the bill for his program mantra at Thomas Dale.
Now, every player on the roster is practicing this approach. One team problem in seasons prior was that players were trying to get their individual stats. Now, the Knights play as a team, and everyone fulfills his role for the greater good. So far, it’s amounted to a 17-5 record and the top seed in the upcoming region 6B tournament.
“We can’t do anything without each other,” said senior guard Neal Phillips. “Coach Rogers emphasized ‘Ubuntu’ and we understand it,” he continued. “We just like playing with each other and seeing each other succeed.”
“[Coach] stressed being a team at the beginning of the year,” said senior forward Luke Ogle. “A big part of our success this year has been just trusting each other.”
“It was obvious that Coach Rogers knew what he was talking about and knows how to put a culture together,” said Dale guard Trey Joseph. “He’s always helping us and trying to get everyone better.”
But it’s not just a concept that helped the team improve. Rogers applauded his entire roster for the hard work that they have put in to drive this improvement.
It helps that players such as Kylon Lewis and Neal Phillips have stepped their games up, developing on both the offensive and defensive end. That’s taken the pressure off Miles Phillips, who most teams expect to be a focal point when playing the Knights.
Then, players like Jahmeel Campbell had to adjust their games to play specific roles. Typically a player who put up a lot of shots, Campbell has been molded into more of a traditional point guard by Rogers and has seen a noticeable uptick in his defense. Ogle, Joseph, and Stevan Henry have all excelled in their respective roles.
A sense of togetherness through “Ubuntu” has put Thomas Dale in a position to make a postseason run. What’s even better is that they’ll have home court advantage throughout the region tournament.