The Mark Twain Lady Tigers basketball program hasn't won a district title since 1975… This year, the team is the top seed in its district as postseason play gets under way this week. If the Lady Tigers do play for a second district championship game, they will be without their starting point guard, Terri Christal.
She isn't injured. She hasn't been suspended for breaking any rules. She didn't have a falling out with a coach. She is merely holding fast to her convictions. Christal and her family are members of the Church of God and follow a strict adherence to the Fourth Commandment…
It is that belief that he [Terri's father Shawn] grew up adhering to; a belief that his wife, Carmen, has also shared since a young age; and a belief that they have passed on to their daughter.
With all the importance put on sports and the value of winning and losing—not to mention the peer pressure that comes with just being a teenager—there should be nothing but admiration for the path that Terri Christal has chosen to follow.
Not only is she Mark Twain's starting point guard during the basketball season, Christal has also played centerfield and hit clean-up for the softball team.
"I think that goes back to her family upbringing and it's something she believes strongly in," said Brooke Hudson, Mark Twain's softball coach.
"I'm sure Terri will say this, too, if we're at a district championship and she's not there, you can't tell me the thought doesn't enter her mind, but you have to think a lot of a young adult who makes those decisions and follows through with them. It wasn't a choice where she followed it one year and didn't from game to game. She stuck through it and I admire her and her family for that."
Make no mistake, she would love to be at every game… But as much as she wants to be there, it's not worth abandoning her faith.
"At first, it's difficult. It goes through my mind, 'What if I was there?' But I've done it all my life," she said. "I'm just like, 'Well, I wish it was on a different day.' That's the way I look at it…"
Not only does Terri have the support of her family, but also that of her teammates.
"It means a lot to have teammates that understand," she said. "Because if they don't understand and support me, it would very difficult—much more difficult than it is right now…"
Although somewhat apprehensive to address the issue at first, Terri said she would rather answer questions than deal with rumors or assumptions.
"I don't think people understand how much pressure and how much stress is involved in fighting this all my life," she said. "People not understanding. Ask me questions. I don't mind answering questions. It's always something that's there. It's always been there for me… I'd much rather them ask me a question than just assume…"
An all-conference player in both basketball and softball, on Wednesday Christal signed a letter of intent to play softball for John Wood Community College next season.
"I'm so excited," she said, smiling. "It's just a great opportunity. I just hope that I can be a good asset to the team in the future."
And as she prepares to go out on her own this fall, she doesn't anticipate any changes in her life or her faith.
"I'm not going to change at all," she said. "Our churches are located all over the nation and if we travel somewhere, I can find somebody in my area and go to church on Saturday like normal. Coach Schlager understands…"
And if the opportunity presents itself in two years to move on and continuing playing softball at a four-year university Terri won't hesitate to keep slugging away.
"I'd like to keep playing if I get that opportunity," she said, smiling. "I'd definitely take it."