When covering Utah Valley high school and college sports, I often see or hear about the negatives, the problems, the frustrations.
It is absolutely vital to bring those to light and address them, the seek solutions or at least ways to mitigate any bad elements.
But I far prefer to tell all of the great stories about people who embody the true spirit of athletics.
That’s what this column is all about today because recently I’ve seen some fantastic examples that I believe deserve to be shared.
Here are three of the many great situations I’ve seen that I want to highlight:
Food for thought
The Provo-Timpview football rivalry has been one-sided for the last 30 years and sometimes it brings out the worst in both sides.
This appeared like it might be the year for the Bulldogs, who came in 2-0 and playing well while the young Thunderbirds team was struggling at 0-2.
In the end, however, Timpview ended up making the plays it needed to secure the 13-7 win and defeat Provo once again.
There were moments in the game from both sides where I wasn’t impressed with the sportsmanship but what impressed me what happened after the game.
A number of Thunderbird parents put together a great dinner for the players after the game and I’ve often been graciously invited to join them for some delicious chicken and rice.
On Friday night, however, I saw another invitation extended as the disappointed Bulldog players were welcomed to share the meal with their rivals.
Folks, this is how a rivalry should be, win or lose.
Each team should be determined to win on the field but treat each other with respect, friendship and kindness off the field.
To me, one of the greatest ways to benefit from sportsmanship is to demonstrate it to those you are competing against, just like the Timpview football program did for the Provo players Friday night.
Leaving things better
I admit that I wasn’t there for this story but it was another classic example of perspective.
Springville and Bountiful fought a tough, physical battle on the gridiron on Friday night. In the end, the Red Devils emerged with the thrilling 20-14 win.
The lesson for all of us, however, once again came after the game.
The Twitter account for the Utah High School Activities Association (@UHSAAinfo) reported what happened:
“On Friday, @SHSRedDevils football defeated @BravesBountiful at home,” the UHSAA tweeted. “As Red Devil fans stormed the field to celebrate, Bountiful students went to the SHS side of the stadium to clean up the garbage left behind. What wonderful models of sportsmanship and kindness. #MyReasonWhy”
On Friday, @SHS_RedDevils football defeated @BravesBountiful at home. As Red Devil fans stormed the field to celebrate, Bountiful students went to the SHS side of the stadium to clean up the garbage left behind. What wonderful models of sportsmanship and kindness. #MyReasonWhy pic.twitter.com/kV2iCs2UBu— UHSAA (@UHSAAinfo) September 1, 2019
Look, you can’t always be happy with the outcome of a game. Sometimes your team is going to lose.
What you can always do is chose how you are going to react.
I want to salute these brilliant Bountiful students for their gesture.
I also want to challenge other visiting teams to emulate their example, because leaving things better is a recipe to find peace and joy in life.
Gratitude and appreciation
New schools have the opportunity to make new traditions and I saw one I really liked at the conclusion of the first home football game for Cedar Valley High School.
Before the contest, the Aviator football players filed across the bottom of the bleachers of the football stadium, giving high-fives to the fans before making their way onto the field.
Although I liked that part, I was even more pleased to see the team do the same at the end of the game. Cedar Valley had fallen short against Spanish Fork in that contest, but the athletes still made their way through the crowd.
I see that concept as a great way not only for these young men to express gratitude to those who stayed to the end to cheer them on but also as an opportunity for parents, neighbors and friends to reassure these teenagers that their efforts were appreciated — even if it didn’t result in victory.
Too often our culture focuses so much on the outcome, the winning or the losing, that we lose track of the struggle and determination required just to play the game. No matter what the scoreboard says, those attributes deserve to be lauded.
While these are just three examples of sportsmanship that resonated with me, I certainly hope their will be many more.
In fact, I hope I see so many impressive illustrations of the true value of athletics that I have to write many more columns just like this one.
So there’s the challenge, everyone.
Now go see what you can do to make that a reality.