For the Libertyville girls varsity basketball team, the number 41 seems to show up everywhere. Members of the team recall multiple times when the number 41 just began to appear out of nowhere, starting last season.
“Every time we check the clock, it’s says 2:41 or 3:41. It’s kind of just a good luck charm for us now,” said senior point guard and captain Margaret Buchert.
Along with 41 being a good luck charm for the team, in some fields, it is also considered an angelic number: “The frequent appearance of the angel number 41 in your life denotes that your guardian angels are working with you to achieve everything you hope for,” according to Trusted Psychic Mediums, an astrology and women’s lifestyle website.
Regardless of the number’s meaning or frequency, the team is able to use it to not only push them but have fun while doing it.
Senior Abby Parkerson, a part of the team last season, was the first to tell teammates about how 41 seemed to be showing up everywhere. She saw it at school, in various places throughout Libertyville, on social media — it was everywhere.
“We [said to Parkerson], ‘You’re crazy,’ and then we all started noticing it,” Buchert added, who even has 41 on the jerseys that she wears for practice this year.
The recognition of 41 everywhere extends beyond just the players.
“Yeah, it was on the scoreboard just yesterday,” said Head Coach Greg Pedersen during a recent interview.
Even last year during their sectional semifinal game, as the second half started, it was tied 41-41. The Cats did not come out on top, falling to their rival team, Lake Forest. Prior to that loss, the team’s success last season included winning their conference and regional championships, ending with a 28-8 record. After a successful season last year, combined with the fact the team graduated just two seniors, the Cats hope to surpass last year’s accomplishments and go even further into the playoffs this season.
While the number 41 has quickly turned into their good luck charm, or something they are always thinking about, another aspect to their team dynamic is their use of the social media site TikTok, a popular application where people dance, sing and make jokes.
“It started at summer camp. We pretty much just [made a TikTok], and it kind of just kept going on from there,” said junior guard Elise Rodriquez.
TikTok has increasingly become an important bonding activity for the team, as they make a video almost every week. One of their recent videos features different clips of each player doing a dance all around different places of their home court. The end of the video features Ms. Amy Holtsford, assistant coach and retired social studies teacher, doing the dance with the entire team at the end. On the other hand, for Mr. Pedersen to join in on TikTok, he said “they have to earn that.”
A timer selfie — another popular trend among the team — is often used to capture a single moment in time. Buchert is especially known for these, in every aspect of her life, whether it be during cross country, basketball or even at home with her family. With TikTok and the timer selfie on Snapchat, the team uses social media to have fun after a hard practice or game, bonding them closer together.
Another aspect of the team off the court is their annual charity work. This season, the team will be working with Fill a Heart 4 kids, a foundation that works with Illinois foster children. In addition, the team is also partnering with Voice for Maddie foundation, a non-profit organization that focuses on supporting literacy and communication skills for children with disabilities. The money raised through a bake sale will be split between these two charities.
“The charitable work that we can do is time off the court away from basketball, where they can just hang out together and do good work together,” Coach Pedersen said.
While the team is busy with various activities outside of the white lines, they also work hard on the court. “Score Stop Score” was the motto on the back of their shirts over the summer, and they are “focusing on defense since we have a bunch of good shooters on our team,” said Buchert.
To help improve their defense, the team runs a shell drill during practice, helping to focus on getting defensive stops, not specifically scoring. And due to the team’s offensive philosophy, they may be playing defense more often than in the past.
“There are going to be a lot more possessions in our games versus possessions at an average basketball game because we’re not going to hold the ball very long. We’re going to get our shots quickly,” explained Coach Pedersen.
Coach Pedersen added that he is going to be looking to the four seniors, as well as junior Lauren Huber, a three-year varsity player, for leadership.
“They know what it takes to be successful, and they know what it takes to be successful at the crunch time too, like in January playoff time,” added Pedersen.