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Youth Sports Heroes: Kailee Kiminski, Tierney Winter, Melanie Bailey, and Teagan Monfils

 

Less than 100 yards separated two veteran long-distance runners, senior Kailee Kaminski and junior Tierney Winter, from the finish line in the Minnesota Class 1A girls state high school cross country meet in Northfield on November 1. In her first statewide race, freshman Jessica Christoffer had just fallen nearby, exhausted and unable to continue.

The three girls attend different schools and did not know one another, but Kaminski and Winter made split-second decisions to help the fallen runner to her feet and support her arm-in-arm so that all three could finish at about the same time. A race official on the scene warned them that the consequence for the trio would be disqualification.

This month's "Heroes" column features competitors in three girl's cross-country meets this fall who exhibited true sportsmanship even the face of disqualification.

Youth Sports Heroes of the Month: Plainfield (Conn.) High School Athletes


"Sports does not build character. Sports reveals character," said journalist Heywood Broun more than half a century ago. He meant that athletic competition can bring out either the best or the worst in an athlete, depending on the inner strengths or weaknesses that the athlete brings to the game. Sports can be noble or ignoble, depending on who is playing and how they play.

On the night of September 26, 2014, fans displayed the ignoble side of sports at a high school football game in Plainfield, Connecticut. Within hours, however, the noble side prevailed as Plainfield student-athletes confronted a wrong that had reportedly festered in their town's sports programs for years.

Sports can be noble or ignoble, depending on who is playing and how they play. On the night of September 26, 2014, fans displayed the ignoble side of sports at a high school football game in Plainfield, Connecticut. Within hours, however, the noble side prevailed as Plainfield student-athletes confronted a wrong that had reportedly festered in their town's sports programs for years.

Youth Sports Hero of the Month: Deven Jackson (Shermans Dale, Pa.)


About three million youngsters will play youth football in the United States this fall.  Only one received sustained media coverage last month, and it was 10-year-old Deven Jackson, who took the field with the West Perry Midget Football Mustangs after a two-year absence from the gridiron.

In 2012, Deven was struck with meningitis. He suffered kidney failure, and his mother told ABC News that doctors gave him only a ten percent chance to live. Doctors amputated both legs six inches below the knees, and playing football seemed out of the question.

About three million youngsters will play youth football in the United States this fall. Only one received sustained media coverage last month, and it was 10-year-old Deven Jackson, who took the field with the West Perry Midget Football Mustangs after a two-year absence from the gridiron.

Youth Sports Heroes of the Month: Jammers Youth Basketball Team (Punta Gorda, Florida)


On Saturday, July 19, 2014, it took 11-year-old Cole Bissonette five tries to sink a basket for the Light Blue team in the Jammers summer youth basketball league run by the Punta Gorda (FL) Police Department. His first shot was an air-ball, but 13-year-old Black team opponent Kenny Scribner saved the ball from going out of bounds and passed it back to Cole, whose second shot hit the front of the rim and bounced away. 

Youth basketball players do not usually get standing ovations, certainly not for scoring after four missed shots. Nor do they ordinarily get newspaper coverage for a made basket after four missed shots. And, of course, they do not usually get five tries to score because a player on the opposing team keeps passing them the ball. But that's what happened recently in Florida.

Youth Sports Heroes of the Month: Annie Donnell and Allison Moehrle (Ladue, Mo.); Rob McQuay (Hanover, Md.)


In suburban St. Louis, Ladue Horton Watkins High School sprinter Annie Donnell ran the 400-meter dash for the first time this spring, after having run the 100-meters in her first three years on the track team. "I wasn't really sure what to expect," the junior told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after the longer race. "It's always different when you run in a meet than when you practice on your track."

Nothing unusual here, except that Annie has been blind since birth.

This month's heroes not only deserve respect for pursuing their passions in sports, despite their disabilities, but also set an example for students with disabilities who might have second thoughts about confronting barriers of their own, on and off the field.

Youth Sports Hero of the Month: Derek Herber (N. Attleboro, Mass.)


It was the ideal ending to a 17-year coaching career, the sort of final curtain call that coaches imagine as their tenure winds down. In the Massachusetts Division 2 boys track and field championships in New Bedford on June 1, North Attleboro High School earned one point in the 4 x 400 relay, the day's final event. Derek Herber had already announced that this would be his last season as coach, and now his team had won its second consecutive state championship, edging runner-up Central Catholic High School, 69-68. Track athlete in starting blocks of relay race

This month's Heroes blog highlights a track and field coach who, instead of capping off a 17-year career with a state championship, ended up retiring with a gesture of true sportsmanship worth its weight in gold.

Youth Sports Hero of the Month: Bram Miller (Falkville, Ala.)

When Falkville High School's Bram Miller received his gold medal for winning the Class 1A state high jump title on May 2, the public address announcer told everyone in Selma Memorial Stadium that the sophomore had set a state record by clearing 6 feet, 8 inches.

The state title alone was quite an accomplishment because Bram had practiced with the track team full-time for only two weeks since finishing the spring JV baseball season. Setting the state Class 1A record added luster.

When an Alabama high jumper won the state title everyone thought he had set a state record. But he knew better. What he did next made him this month's Youth Sports Hero.

Youth Sports Heroes of the Month: Alex Norwood (Conyers, Ga.) and Schuyler LaRue (Maryville, Tenn.)


Sixteen-year-old Atlanta-area first baseman Alex Norwood hit a dramatic grand slam in a winning cause on March 21, but his truly game-changing hit was none that never appeared on the scoreboard.

In a junior varsity game at Newtown High, the Rockdale County High junior came through in the clutch in a way that mattered even more when, between the second and third innings, home plate umpire Woody Reagin suffered a massive heart attack and collapsed. Alex Norwood and coach Jerrid Harris

This month's Youth Sports Heroes honors two high school students - one a wrestler, one a baseball player - who were in the right place at the right time to save the lives of an umpire and fan who, but for their training and quick thinking, might have died.

Youth Sports Heroes of the Month: Overland High School (Aurora, Colo.) Girls Soccer Team

 

When the Overland High School Trailblazers opened their varsity soccer season against the Fairview High School Knights on March 12, the girls were short one player. The referees sidelined Trailblazer Samah Aidah as a result of a pre-game ruling that her hijab, a headscarf worn by Muslim women as a sign of modesty and devotion, created an alleged "danger." Aurora Colorado girls soccer team wearing hajibs

When a referee sidelined Overland High School soccer player Samah Aidah because her hijab allegedly created a "danger," her teammates expressed their solidarity at their next game by all wearing hajibs. 

Disciplining Youth Sports Coaches: Lots of Factors To Consider

My March "Youth Sports Hero of the Month" column honored 12-year-old Matthew Marotta for his sportsmanship at the end of a hard-fought pee wee hockey tournament game in Winnipeg, Manitoba on February 16.

For readers who might not have read that blog entry yet, the Nanaimo Clippers edged Matthew's Prince George Cougars, 3-2, on a hotly disputed goal in the final moments of double overtime.Youth hockey player watching action from bench

In his March Youth Sports Hero of the Month blog, Doug Abrams honored 12-year-old Matthew Marotta for his sportsmanship at the end of a hard-fought pee wee hockey tournament game in Winnipeg, Manitoba.   In this post, the former youth hockey coach focuses on the factors sports leagues should weigh in considering disciplinary measures against a coach, using the Marotta incident as a jumping off point.
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