With the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, the World Cup and other sports in the news recently, it can be easy to only think about the action on the field and forget about the strong character of those athletes in what they say and do off the field.
Across the world, athletes are making a difference with their actions and deserve recognition for their admirable work.
Here are this week’s heroes:
High school lacrosse senior’s selflessness pays off
It’s not every day a simple act such as picking up trash catches the eye of a college coach recruiting high school athletes. But that’s exactly what happened to one particular lacrosse player.
Craig Haworth, who has coached lacrosse, basketball and other youth sports, shared the story in a blog post on his Winning Youth Coaching website.
A young athlete the Haworths knew wasn’t a highly sought-after lacrosse player at first. But after playing well in several national tournaments, coaches began to take notice of the high school senior.
One day, the player got a call from the head coach of a top college lacrosse program, inviting him and his parents for a visit. What the coach had to say gave Haworth goosebumps.
After one of the athlete’s games, the coach went on the field to look for the player, but couldn’t find him.
“We looked and looked, but to no avail,” the coach reportedly told the player. “Then finally, we saw you. You were over in the team tent. Picking up trash, cups and cleaning up. In that moment, you went from an average recruiting target of ours, to THE top target.”
This coach went on to write that lacrosse is a sport often consumed with entitled, selfish, uncoachable athletes. But he looks for players who are willing to pick up trash and perform other non-glamorous tasks, because he believes it helps build a culture that wins championships.
Sometimes, it’s the small things that matter.
Kylian Mbappe pays his World Cup success forward
France’s victory over Croatia to capture the World Cup made plenty of headlines. But a less publicized story is also a cause for celebration.
Kylian Mbappe, a 19-year-old forward for the French team who burst onto the scene with four goals in the tournament, donated every penny of his World Cup earnings to charity. As reported in a story on the Washington Post, Mbappe gave all of the $22,500 he made in each of France’s World Cup games to Premiers de Cordee, an organization that helps disabled and hospitalized children get into sports. He also donated his entire $350,000.00 bonus to the charity. All together, that’s over half a million dollars.
In an age where many professional athletes seek the biggest salary they can get, Mbappe’s selfless act is more thrilling than any goal he’ll ever score.
Local group helps keep everyone in the game
Part of the mission of the Elks, an American fraternal order that develops brotherhood through various charitable efforts, is to serve people through its benevolent programs and investments in communities all across the United States.
One affiliate, the Newark Elks Lodge No. 1249, recently lived up to the group’s name. The Newark Elks donated $1,000 to the Alex Eligh Community Center through its National Foundation’s Gratitude Grant. The money will help support the AECC’s youth baseball and softball programs, which benefit area children from kindergarten through high school.
Thanks to the Elks Lodge’s generosity, the center will be able to provide a quality program for more than 300 children.
“The grant money allows us to put together a well organized and safe activity for the youth in our community,” AECC executive director Mike Muscolino told the Wayne County (New York) Post. “We maintain our facilities daily and provide the participants with updated equipment.”
The center charges a registration fee for these programs, but never turns down a child due to an inability to pay.
“All kids can play ball in our programs,” Muscolino said.
Young softball player stands up to hyper-competitive youth sports culture
It’s not unusual for some parents, coaches and educators to speak out about the high-pressure culture of youth sports. But when that perspective comes directly from the athlete, the subject takes on a whole new meaning.
Kylee Nixon, a softball player at York High School in York, Nebraska, believes youth sports have changed significantly in recent years, and that this has hurt athletes such as herself.
“I went to a Div. I softball camp last summer, and the first thing the head coach asked me was, 'what travel team do you play on?'” she wrote in an editorial for the York News Times. “After I told her my team name, which isn’t one of the top affiliated club teams in (Nebraska), I really didn’t get a single look the rest of the camp.”
Nixon is quick to add that her youth sports experience has been positive for the most part, and she is grateful to those who have taken the time to help her get better. But, in her opinion, the root of the current problem comes down to three things: parents making the sport about them, the pressure to be excellent and a “win at all cost” attitude.
“This is not a direct hit to sports,” she wrote. “I am thankful that I didn’t have to endure too much of the insanity, and I am hoping for the same with my siblings.”
It isn’t easy for anyone to stand up and speak out in a situation like this. However, Nixon is helping continue this dialogue. It’s impressive to see when an athlete herself takes this sort of initiative.