Queen’s Grant Lady Knights honor Ian Kniestedt

Queens Grants Lady Knights honored classmate Ian Kniestedt at Thursdays season closer
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On November 1, 2019, Queen’s Grant Community School faced an unimaginable tragedy when seventh-grader Ian Kniestedt lost his 8-month battle with brain cancer.

When Lady Knights basketball Coach Don heard of Ian’s passing, he thought about going into practice that Monday and facing his team of sixth, seventh and eighth-grade girls, many of whom had been good friends and classmates of Ian’s.  “I knew I would be faced with addressing Ian’s death,” says Coach Don. “How did I handle that? And was there something I could do to help them cope with their grief while also celebrating his life? I prayed that God would help me come up with something that was both meaningful and memorable.”

Loving.  Kind. Caring.  Perseverance. Fighter.  Battler. Tough. Funny. Playful.  Great Soccer Player. These are the words the Queen’s Grant Lady Knights came up with at that Monday’s practice to describe Ian.  And Coach Don began to think: wouldn’t it be great to rally around Ian’s traits for their basketball season?

“The first thing I decided to do was dedicate our season to Ian,” says Coach Don.  “I wanted to make sure that Ian was honored every practice and every game.” Since then, you’ll no longer hear the team yell, “Lady Knights on three!” before they take the court.  Instead, they begin every game and practice with “Ian on three! One, two, three: IAN!” “Since November fourth, there has not been a practice or a game where we have not honored his name multiple times a day,” says Coach Don.

Coach Don also wanted to recognize Ian and his family in a special way.  He decided that the girls’ last home game of the season would be a special tribute to Ian, something to honor Ian and recognize his family in a meaningful and memorable way.

On January 23, before the Lady Knights took the court against Union Prep, eleven chairs lined center court: ten for the Lady Knights and one in the middle to represent Ian and his presence as an honorary member of the team.  The girls entered the court one by one with pink and purple carnations – Ian’s favorite colors – while “Memories” by Maroon 5 played.

The Lady Knights honored Ian’s memory with carnations in his favorite colors, pink and purple.

Ian’s family was unable to attend the game, but Queen’s Grant administrators accepted three special gifts on his behalf: the vase of pink and purple flowers, a basketball signed by the coaches, players and managers, and a framed, pink and purple “Team Ian” jersey with Ian’s soccer number on it.  “After this game is completed, the number 6 will be retired,” announced Coach Don. “It won’t appear again on a Lady Knight’s jersey.”

The team gifted Ian’s family with a signed basketball and a “Team Ian” jersey.

Next came the biggest surprise of the night.  “We liked the jersey so much, we had ten more made!” announced Coach Don as the girls removed their warm-up shirts to reveal purple and pink “Team Ian” jerseys underneath.  “Tonight, we are Team Ian!”

At the conclusion of the tribute, the team removed their warm-ups to reveal “Team Ian” jerseys

The Lady Knights won the last game of their season 27-4, but their victory was almost beside the point.  “While it was nice to win, this was all about Ian and his family,” says Coach Don. “For one special game, we were Queen’s Grant only on paper.  Tonight was about honoring a brave and courageous classmate who taught us about living life to its fullest.”

The Lady Knights – aka “Team Ian” – won 27-4 against Union Prep.
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Mary Beth Foster
Mary Beth Foster works part time as an essay specialist at Charlotte Latin School and full time as a mom to her five-year-old daughter Hannah and her two-year-old son Henry. Prior to having children, she worked as a high school English teacher for nine years. Most recently, she chaired the English department at Queen's Grant High School. She and her husband have lived in Mint Hill with their children and their cats since 2011. Email: marybeth@minthilltimes.com