Saturday, April 25, 2015

Any Athlete Can Be Great: Because Every Athlete Can Serve. A new way to do so....Part I

Not really sure why we all can't put our own trash away
Near the conclusion of a professional baseball game in Japan, stadium employees pass trash bags down the aisles so fans can place their food, trays and rubbish where it belongs. Why do we Americans just leave plastic water bottles, boxes of popcorn and candy wrappers on the ground for someone else to pick up? I have often wondered, Why can't we do it ourselves? Why don't we? What happens when the ones who pick up the trash are the athletes themselves? Here is a story of a few athletes who do.

The first story involves a former student and Fox award honoree that I ran into at the gym the this past week.

Half of the faculty in the religious studies department thinks we should do away with our extraordinary award. With nearly 1500 students, it's unlikely our small staff knows the nominees well enough to determine who is that outstanding contributor over another kid. However, I have always believed that if we recognize the right individual, the award speaks volumes. (see this posting on sports & nutrition). Tommy aka "TK" is a wonderful example.

In high school, Tommy was an outstanding football and lacrosse player. His football coach had to tell him in practice he didn't need to hit that hard, a) his teammates were getting beat up and b) he needed to learn the switch between "on" and "off." In my course, RS 300: Ethics, Morality and Justice, TK, continually made connections between literature, American history and our curriculum. I don’t know that he was overtly religious and yet, I cannot tell you how many world events I learned about through his petitionary prayer. 

Students lead prayer and ask for intentions. Tommy would pray “for the victims of the earthquake in Pakistan,” I would listen and think to myself, I didn’t know there was an earthquake in Pakistan. Or he would pray for the success of the penny wars—a student driven fundraiser. It’s not often that a 17-year old male who was a member of the 1000 lb. club (bench, squat and dead lift) is calling to his peers to prayer in this way.
TK on the right with two former SI football players after a game at Trinity in Hartford, CT
But one of TK's most endearing qualities was his attention to details and to others. After class, if students left papers on the floor he would return them to me. He found the girl who left her pencil pouch and gave it to her. The lonely calculator that was left behind? He looked to see if someone put their name on it so he could give it to them. His classmates noticed this about him too. It was hard not to.

After our awards ceremony, When Tommy won the Fox award, I was telling a colleague how much it meant to me that TK won the award. My co-worker didn't know who I was talking about. I said "sure you do, Tommy is involved in this and you may have seen him there." He shook his head "no."  What I'm about to tell you can't be made up. Midconversation, for some reason, I look up into the bleachers and who do I see? Tommy is picking up all of the programs from the awards assembly. Caught in the act!


I didn't coach TK, so I can't speak directly to how this quality extended to the gridiron or the lax field, but I don't doubt that it did. He was caught in the act of doing good, following a moment when he shined...winning the a presigious award that reflects academics and character. That's probably the best time to do that.

The next posting will be about the Mt. Vernon High School football team that does the same. ...win or lose.

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