Jenga and The Hokies


It was around mid September when I decided upon using the term “Jenga” for the theme of our team this year.   Every team I have ever coached has had a theme associated with it.  Last year it was “Just Today” and finally this year I settled upon Jenga.  I grappled with a variety of ideas all summer, but none of them would stick.  Except for Jenga….and in our current situation here at Virginia Tech it made perfect sense.

            When someone says Jenga, the first thing we would think of is the game of wooden blocks that eventually topples over after so many pieces are removed from it.  Being that I look at most things at a slightly different angle then most, I saw the opposite of the game.  The aspect of the game that is commonly overlooked is in the actual building up of the blocks.  The game isn’t in just the blocks toppling over, but also in the wooden tower being constructed.  Wanting to know more, I began to research the origin and meaning of the word Jenga.  In the native language of Southeast Africa, known as Swahili, the translation for the word “Jenga” is “to build, construct, or make.”

Think about it this, if they were going to show a commercial for the game Jenga, what would they show?  Probably someone pulling a wood block out as the tower slowly begins to sway and then BAM, the blocks topple over.  They wouldn’t show the slow part that doesn’t count towards the winning and losing, the part where you build the wooden tower of blocks back up to let the game begin.  Yet, if you had to define the title of the game it is to “build and construct” and not to “topple and destruct.”

            Right now I am in year one of my duties at Virginia Tech, and we are in the most important phase of “Jenga” there is.  We are building, piece-by-piece, every single day.  Every player on the team represents a block in the game, every coach, every single person on our staff from the managers to myself are apart of this rebuild.  I wanted them to realize that all outside influences, circumstances, and situations both negative and positive can be a part of our Jenga pieces.  It has just as much to do what happens off the court as it does on the court.  When a piece is removed I wanted the guys know that before the game even starts, we must be building something, so we are ready to play.  Every piece matters, every block in the game is as important as the next.  The block on the very bottom is as vital to the blocks in the middle or the ones on top.  Everything we do, everyday, no matter how big or small, is important to what we are trying to build.

            The Hokies are currently in the building phase.  Everyday, every play, and every member is a block in our tower.  Every piece is a fragile component in our tower, determining how sturdy or flimsy we will be.  The responsibility to maintain the tower will fall upon us, both to build it…but also to maintain it.

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