I love sports!
Don't get me wrong. I'm not talking about the many professional
athletes of today who have developed a me-first attitude, after being raised in a
win-at-all-cost generation. A generation where role models are severely lacking and most
of the headlines that capture our attention are of those athletes who are in trouble. No,
I am talking about high school sports, where lessons of life are still being learned, and
where athletes still compete for the love of the game and their teammates.
I know some of you are thinking, "The high school athletes of
today are just as bad!" And you would be partially right. The me-first attitude is
trickling down into the high school and junior high athletes.
But in the midst of all of this is a young lady from Wisconsin. I
first met Lisa Kincaid on the volleyball court as she played for a rival high school in
the conference I coach in. Many times I was on the opposing sidelines and could only watch
in awe at her athleticism. The speed of a cheetah, the mental toughness of veteran, and a
32 inch vertical jump! (Unheard of for a high school girl, and she was only a sophomore!)
Starting her junior year I was fortunate enough to coach Lisa on a
USA Junior Olympic Volleyball team and it was during these two years that my wife and I
grew to love and respect her. Respect, not only for her many athletic achievements, but
for her unselfishness and humility to those around her in the face of the many honors that
were bestowed upon her. Besides being one of the most coachable athletes I have ever had
she was the epitome of a team player and went out of her way to be humble.
If anyone had a right to be cocky or proud of herself it was Lisa.
Besides being one of the best volleyball and basketball players in the state, she became a
track legend in the Dairy State. How good was she? She went 64 straight conference meets
and never lost in any event she was entered in. She made trips to the state finals
all four years she was in high school and came away with six state titles. Many times she
was the lone representative at the state competition for her team and would
single-handedly place her high school as high as third. While she excelled in the triple
jump, long jump, 100, and 200 meter dashes, there were times when her coach needed her to
fill in for other events. One particular day he asked her to run the 300 meter hurdles.
She had never competed in this event before, but the coach needed her that day for the
good of the team. How did she do? She not only won, she set the school record in the first
and only time she competed in that event!
Never once did she ever brag about her accomplishments. In fact she
felt uncomfortable talking about her achievements and would usually steer the
conversation away from herself to the performances of her younger sisters or other
teammates. Besides coaching her in volleyball I was able to observe her at many track
meets, as I was hired to produce track videos by other high schools in the conference for
my video production company. I saw many instances where she would loan her shoes to
someone who forgot them, or slow down at the end of a race to finish up stride for stride
with her sister, both of them smiling from ear to ear as they crossed the finish line
together. And I vividly remember Lisa going up to an athlete from a different team and
wishing her a happy birthday. The young lady's face just beamed as she told Lisa of her
birthday plans for later that night. I was smiling as I walked away because I happened to
know that it was Lisa's birthday that day, too but never once did she mention it.
But there was one particular track meet during Lisa's junior year
where she impressed upon me what is still good about sports these days. It was a
non-conference meet late in the year and Lisa's coach told her he needed her to run the
mile. Lisa had never done so, but agreed to do what was best for the team.
Lisa easily outdistanced the competition but on the last lap she
slowed and seemed to grow uncharacteristically "tired". Two athletes from the
opposing team passed her, and then so did Julie, Lisa's teammate. Lisa "hung on"
and was able to stay just behind her teammate and cross the finish line at her heels.
Lisa lost an event for the first time in her track career.You see,
athletes in Lisa's track program need to earn a set amount of points in order to earn a
varsity letter. Lisa knew that Julie, who was a senior, needed to finish at least third to
earn a letter for the first time. Lisa also knew that the two athletes on the other team
were most likely going to beat Julie if they ran anywhere near the times they had been
running all year. Barring an injury during the race, Julie was a lock to finish third. But
that was until the coach entered Lisa in the event.
Lisa remembered all this as she lined up for the start of that race,
and I had often wondered why she had a slight smile on her face after having lost for the
first time ever. After four years of working hard Julie finally received her first varsity
letter and helped her team win the meet.
And Lisa? On that day she earned my respect and admiration, and in
my mind, solidified herself as the role-model this generation sorely needs.
The day Lisa lost she was truly a winner without equal.
Lisa has continued her success at the college level where she is
pursuing her education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on a track scholarship.
Although she is now competing against the best athletes in the country, she continues to
win, both on and off the track.
"Sometimes you can win and still lose, and lose and still