Sports headlines are filled with heroic moments on the field: a game-winning shot, the walk-off hit, a play that totally changes the momentum of a game.
Beyond those headlines, sometimes in total obscurity, are those players, coaches and other individuals who are doing their part to make a difference off the field, from the youth level to professional sports. These are the real winners that players, coaches and parents can learn from in building a positive youth sports culture.
Here are this week’s heroes.
Dylan Dusek – pitcher, Texas Tech Red Raiders
Overcoming Tommy John surgery is hard enough. But it pales in comparison to the battle with leukemia that Dusek had to fight as a child.
The Texas Tech pitcher mowed down both roadblocks the way he does hitters, helping get his team to the College World Series for the third time since 2014.
Dusek came on in relief to get the final three outs in Game 3 of the Super Regional against Duke, sending the Red Raiders to Omaha. In the team’s first CWS game, Dusek pitched 4.1 innings as a starter, striking out seven in a victory over then-defending champion Florida. The San Francisco Giants selected him in the 27th round of the recent Major League Baseball Amateur Draft.
Before leaving Lubbock to start his professional career, Dusek posted a heart-felt message of thanks on Twitter to Tech fans, coaches, staff and family.
“Big time thank you to @TTU_Baseball and everyone else who made an impact,” Dusek tweeted. “Omaha is now a standard.”
The way he has handled adversity throughout his young life, Dusek has set his own standard of excellence.
Ty Koehn – pitcher, Mounds View High School
Hugs and handshakes between friends on opposing teams aren’t unusual before and after a game. But for two high school players, this exchange had more meaning than usual.
Ty Koehn struck out the final batter to end a high school playoff game in Minnesota, sealing his team’s victory and sending them to the championship.
Normally, the first thing a player from the winning team does is rush off to celebrate with his teammates. But what Koehn did next went viral in a video: he hugged and consoled the hitter, Jack Kocon, a lifelong friend of Koehn’s.
“I knew I had to say something,” Koehn said via the Orlando Sentinel. “Our friendship is more important than just the silly outcome of a game.”
Koehn did eventually celebrate with his teammates. But his gesture proves there is room for both winning and good sportsmanship.
Misty Hyman – Olympic gold medalist
You don’t have to tell Olympic gold medal swimmer Misty Hyman what adversity is all about. As a child, she was diagnosed with asthma. When a doctor told her mom that swimming was a healthy activity for asthma patients, Hyman signed up for a summer swimming program.
“At first it was tough, because I wasn’t very strong and I wasn’t very healthy,” Hyman said in an interview with the National Association for Youth Sports. “But I stuck it out and got healthier and stronger, and I started to realize that I really loved being in the water.”
After capturing several junior swimming titles, Hyman competed in the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials, barely missing out on a spot on the Olympic Team by three one-hundredths of a second. Undaunted, she made the team four years later, winning a gold medal and setting an American record in the 200-meter butterfly at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.
Today, Hyman conducts coaching clinics around the United States, and coaches swimmers in Arizona. She believes coaching is a two-way dialogue.
“I may have an idea of what I can help that swimmer with, but I really want to hear their input on what they’re feeling and thinking about and what they want to work on,” she said. “And so it ends up being this beautiful dance between the athlete and the coach, working through it together to get to somewhere new.”
World Cup soccer fans
The FIFA World Cup is one of the most intense sporting events in the world, particularly among fans of the competing countries. One group of fans, however, put aside their team loyalties to offer a hand to someone in need.
At the FIFA fan zone in Moscow, several fans rooting for Colombia and Mexico noticed an Egyptian man in a wheelchair trying to watch the match between Egypt and Uruguay on a television screen but unable to see it. The fans lifted the man onto their shoulders so he could watch. A photo of the kind gesture was taken and made the rounds on Twitter.
From GameChanger and Stephen Kerr
Check out our previous Real Sports Heroes highlight here.