By Bart Thompson, UHSAA Assistant Director
Photo by Shane Marshall
It’s hard to believe that I’m half way through my eighth year as one of the directors at the Utah High School Activities Association. During that time I have seen some wonderful things and some not so wonderful.
As I think back though, an incident which involves both ends of the spectrum comes to mind as both interesting. It also comes with a lesson for all of us.
The incident occurred in one of my first years at the UHSAA. It involved a call by an official which, correct or not, had the effect of changing the momentum in a championship contest in which it looked like there would be a come-from-behind victory.
The side that benefited from the swing in momentum ended up holding on and winning the contest and the championship. At the conclusion, a father came onto the playing area and headed right toward the official. As I moved in that direction, I observed a young lady insert herself between the angry parent and the official.
I recognized her as one who had just been playing on the side that ended up narrowly losing the contest. She threw out her arms and calmly but firmly stated, “It’s a game Dad. I did my best. The call wasn’t the reason.”
I can still remember the incident clearly, as if it were yesterday. I hurried to escort the official out of the area as this young lady held her calming, but still agitated, father at bay.
This young hero had accepted the outcome. She had taken responsibility for her own performance and was willing to move forward without blaming factors beyond her own control. I heard her say that they had given up too many points early and that the contest was too close and anything could happen.
I found out that this incredible youth was an underclassman. Mature beyond her years, she had figured out what competition was all about.
I followed her career even though my assignment changed and I was no longer supervising that sport. In later years she won state championships in that and other sports. I couldn’t help but think she learned what she needed to learn that day and became better as a result.
I saw her humbly and enthusiastically congratulate teammates on the occasion of a championship in a different sport. It was evident that those congratulated were made to feel that their contribution was vital to the success they had achieved.
I learned a great deal watching this young hero. All who were associated with her did as well. I don’t know if competition in sport builds character as much as it reveals it. But in revealing it we have a chance to decide where we want to take it.
This young lady’s character was on display in a tough moment. Her choices and actions in that moment made an indelible mark on those with whom she associated and, whether she knew it or not, those she didn’t know were even watching.
With people like this young lady participating in high school sports, the state of high school sports in Utah is strong.