Extra Inspiration

January 31, 2019

Earlier this month, the boys' basketball team at Valley Christian Academy, in Roseville, Calif., pulled off an upset win over Faith Christian in honor of its strength and conditioning coach, Brian DeFiebre, who recently suffered a stroke.

According to the Press Tribune, DeFiebre suffered the stroke on January 6, a day after the team's loss to Cristo Rey. DeFiebre said he recognized that he was having a stroke, and said it was a “pretty scary” experience.

“I couldn’t find my right arm. I thought it was behind my back,” he said. “I knew I had to take quick action… My speech started faltering. I couldn’t tell (paramedics) what age I was or what year I was born. Inside my brain I knew what I wanted to say, but I couldn’t get the words out correctly.”

Brad Gunter, head coach of Valley Christian Academy's basketball team, said the team's previous loss “became really insignificant,” after DeFiebre's stroke. The team went to see DeFiebre in the hospital, where he struggled to communicate with the players.

“His speech was not there,” says Gunter. “He knew it in his mind; he could comprehend but he couldn’t communicate. I’d ask him how old he was, and he’d say ‘80’ with confidence, but then he’d say he was born in 1997. By day two, he said he was 67, so he was making progression… By night three, he said he was 54 years old with a big smile. We knew he was going to be alright by then.”

Before the game, DeFiebre shared a Facebook past with his team, which read: “VARSITY BOYS, YOU BETTER BEAT FAITH! IF ANYTHING, DO IT FOR ME!! (Hope that's not too much pressure).” It was followed by the hashtag: #IfYoureNotStrongYouDontBelong, the team's motto promoting mental toughness.

Before the game, Faith was 9-5 at the time, undefeated in three league games, and placed third in Division VI Sac-Joaquin Section, while VCA was 2-13 and had only won against Faith once in the past two and a half seasons. Despite that, VCA won 83-80.

“It all comes down to Thursday,” Gunter said. “To get an upset win on the day he comes home just made our season worthwhile.”

When the team gave the news to DeFiebre, Gunter started out by speaking solemnly before switching to speaker phone, at which point DeFiebre heard the team celebrate their victory.

“The guys all exploded,” DeFiebre said. “They were yelling, I was yelling… I was thrilled!”

DeFiebre said he will begin speech therapy for cognitive training this week, but will not need physical or occupational therapy. He said he intends to return to coaching, even if he's not sure when.

“I expect to make a complete recovery and exceed all expectations,” he says. “I’m so, so eager to get back to work and get back to training.”


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