• Bill Domenico

Perspective: Spelling Bee


Every year Bill Domenico watches the Scripps National Spelling Bee. (Courtesy Photo)

Every year I watch the Scripps National Spelling Bee in utter amazement.


Perhaps it’s a consequence of misspelling a common five-letter word in the only spelling contest I entered several decades ago. Then again, English is a very difficult language to learn and speak fluently, let alone spell words correctly because of all the different pronunciations and meanings.


This years’ winner is no ordinary teen with a special talent for memorizing difficult words to spell. Zaila Avant-Garde of New Orleans, Louisiana holds three Guinness world records and is a basketball prodigy. Her dribbling and shooting skills are jaw-dropping. She aspires to be a star in the WNBA and, based on her several videos on social media, appears to be reminiscent of a Harlem Globetrotter in the making. Her age makes her skills all the more remarkable because they are all world class!


Avant-Garde ... her father legally changed her name from Heard in honor of John Coltrane...is the first African American to capture the spelling bee’s top prize in its 96-year history. Zaila started the contest with 205 other boys and girls, and defeated the 10 finalists she was matched against, all of whom appeared to be of Indian heritage.


About five years ago, an Indian student who I befriended, confided in me that when he arrived home from school each day, he was expected to complete his homework before anything else and it was subject to his father’s review. He stated that his allowance hinged upon his grades, and that C’s and D’s were considered failing marks by his parents.


Zaila said that she studied for the bee seven hours per day which left her with 17 hours to practice her basketball drills, have meals with her parents and still get plenty of sleep. Talk about priorities!


In order to succeed at a high level, sacrifice is always required along with practice. Practice! Practice! Fortunately, this years’ winner of the $50,000 Scripps top prize took practice much more seriously than another basketball titan we all knew locally as A.I. (Allen Iverson).



Bill Domenico

Hammonton