The Inspiring Truth About the State of Youth Sports

By Alex Perdikis

With all the news about youth sports gone bad, the most uplifting stories seem to get lost in the shuffle. That’s too bad because it’s a fact that youth sports is an overwhelmingly positive experience for most players and their families.

Good news rarely gets media coverage. With that in mind, here are some inspiring youth sports stories that’ll tug at your heartstrings and restore your faith in the human spirit.

Powering Past Adversity

Rashawn King was an ace football player for Middle Creek High School in Apex, North Carolina. A diagnosis of leukemia before his junior year changed all that. As Rashawn took the year off to battle the disease, support poured in. His team, school and community held multiple fundraisers, supporters camped out in the hospital lobby and friends flooded Rashawn with cards and messages of hope.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation caught wind of Rashawn’s struggle with leukemia and asked him to make a wish. Rashawn didn’t want a trip to Disneyland. Instead, to thank them for caring, he asked for a free school lunch for all 1,900 of his classmates, teachers and the school staff.

Rashawn roared back senior year and won all-conference honors.

Youth Sports and True Sportsmanship

Meghan Vogel was a state title winner in the 1,600-meter race for West Liberty-Salem High School, but was running in last place in the 3,200-meter final at the Ohio State track and field championships.

She had a chance to finish ahead of a collapsed competitor, but instead, Meghan helped the runner off the ground and ran with her across the finish line. Meghan made sure she kept her last place status. She explained her competitor had been ahead of her the whole race and deserved to finish in front.

A similar incident occurred halfway through a high school cross-country race in East Memphis, Tennessee. Seth Goldstein was in position to win or at least place high when he saw a collapsed runner in an obvious state of distress. Seth ran to his fallen competitor, turned him on his side so he wouldn’t choke and stayed with him until an emergency crew arrived.

Inspiration Comes in Different Packages

True strength and inspiration come in a lot of different packages.

You’ve probably heard about Bethany Hamilton. Perhaps you’ve seen the film “Soul Surfer,” which tells her story. The daughter of surfers, Bethany was raised in Hawaii and began competing as a child. When she was 13 years old, she nearly lost her life in a shark attack. She lived, but lost an arm.

Getting back in the water after the attack took every bit of courage she could muster. But come back she did. Two years later she won first place in the NSSA National Championships Explorer Women’s Division. She’s a professional now and shares her inspirational message of hope around the world.

What happens after a 12-year-old is hit by a car and suffers a permanently paralyzed arm? If you’re Jason Lester, you learn to swim, run and ride fast. You compete in Ironman and Ultraman competitions. Jason was the ESPY “Best Male Athlete with a Disability” winner in 2009. He’s won numerous championships, is an author and holds firm in his belief that stopping is not an option.

Chelsea McClammer was in a car accident when she was 6 years old. The accident resulted in paralysis from the waist down.

Chelsea loved playing sports before her accident and didn’t let a “little” paralysis stand in her way after. She became the youngest member of the U.S. Paralympic team in 2008. She raced in multiple competitions, setting a female course record at the Bloomsday Road Race in Spokane, Washington. She continues to compete and spreads a message of hope wherever she goes.

Kyle Maynard is a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. He was once awarded GNC’s World’s Strongest Teen title. He’s climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, owns a crossfit gym and is a motivational speaker for the Washington Speaker’s Bureau.

All are worthy accomplishments in themselves. What makes them even more exceptional, however, is Kyle was born without arms or legs. He still managed all of these amazing accomplishments.

Jessica Long was born with fibular hemimelia which forced doctors to amputate her lower legs when she was 18 months old. She learned to walk with prostheses and began her Paralympic career as a swimmer at 12 years of age. She came away from the 2004 Athens Paralympics with three gold medals. At the 2008 games in Beijing, she took gold four times, earned two silvers and a bronze.

Sure, we hear a lot about terrible coaches and parents behaving badly when it comes to youth sports. But there are so many inspirational stories we rarely hear. Youth sports is and always has been filled with amazing players who are an inspiration to people everywhere.