CURCIO’S CORNER: The true “goal” of high school athletics
I may or may not be guilty of having my eyes glaze over when the sportsmanship pledge is read before each game but a poignant and (best of all) unscripted moment of sportsmanship, fair play and kindness happened this week.
Consider it came in a game between North and West Stanly, two rivals whom have not been conference opponents for more than a decade but recent games were no less anticipated or intense.
So when the Comets boarded the bus and (I’m guessing) drove down Austin Road to Red Cross for Monday’s season opener for North, the team was expecting a tough matchup with the Colts.
Having only one senior on the team (Eli Williams), the younger Comets faced a West team with six seniors, including Logan Brown.
This story serves to show the results of a game can be far outweighed by the behavior of everyone involved in the game, from parents in the stands and coaches on the field to players and officials.
Sadly, I was not at this game. I would have loved to have seen it, and exhaustive efforts to find video to post on our website of what happened have been unsuccessful so far (hint: if you have a video, let me know).
North trailed 5-0 at halftime, which led to Comets head coach Justin Carter starting more of his freshmen in the second half to get some on-field experience.
About 20 minutes later, he said, North brought more subs in, including one for Koby Poole on the front line.
His sub, David Shaw, was another freshman on the team who was a manager on the North Stanly Middle School team last year.
He was told by Carter if he wanted to be on the high school squad, he would have to play. Shaw never missed a day of tryouts or practice.
Shaw, according to Williams, is a role model for the rest of the team when they may not want to do all the things in practice asked of them.
“He is an inspiration to the team. Everyone likes him on the team. I see him in the hallway or during second block. He brightens my day,” Williams said.
One difference between Shaw and his teammates is he has autism.
Carter said that does not warrant any different treatment from the other athletes on the team.
With the score 8-0 late in the second half, Carter asked Shaw to take over for Poole at striker, a forward position whose primary role is to generate scoring chances.
As he came onto the field, Brown walked over to Williams and said “if you will let me have the ball, I’ll let No. 15 (Shaw) score for you.”
He did not get the ball right away as West’s defense passed it around for a few minutes, but when Brown got the ball he passed it directly to Shaw’s feet.
Shaw took the ball to goal, shot and missed, but the West goalie kicked the ball back to him and Shaw scored the first goal of the season for the Comets.
He said the West players supported him.
Shaw said he saw everyone cheer and yell “Yea, David!” when he scored.
He said he felt “really good” when scoring the goal and had not felt that good for a long time.
Carter said he was in shock while others just went crazy with joy.
Shaw said he likes traveling with the soccer team and playing the sport builds up his leg muscles.
“I’m actually getting some exercise.”
Brown talked about why he felt led to do this.
“Just because kids have special traits doesn’t mean they can’t play sports,” Brown said. “His happiness and ability to feel normal in that sense is more important than us winning the game. Even if it was 2-1, 2-2, I would have still made that decision.”
“Logan Brown exemplifies the best of West Stanly. His quick-thinking show of sportsmanship against North came from a core foundation of integrity and character t instilled in him since a young age,” West athletic director Daniel Smith said.
You hear about the younger generation acting entitled, spoiled, unable to deal with life.
Maybe they are learning more on the field and court than any of us know when the sportsmanship pledge is read.
Maybe those ideals and beliefs truly are sinking into the lives of those young athletes.
If kids and adults acted more like the players did in this game by recognizing the situation and doing the right thing regardless of the score, result, rivalry or anything else, maybe the future is brighter than we think.
Sports Editor Charles Curcio can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 704-983-1361 or via Twitter (@charles_curcio).