Earlier this month, Meghan Vogel became headline news not for winning the 1600m in her Ohio State DIII championship, but by helping an exhausted runner, one near collapse, to finish the 3200 meter Ohio state meet race. Technically, they finished 14th and 15th (last place).
The reactions were mixed.
Some touted this as a great sportsmanship story (see links to other stories at the end of the article).. others claimed they were seeking media attention. One commenter thought she belonged to the “Special Olympics”.
Below is a commentary written by Kirk Mango, a Coach and former National Champion in gymnastics.
Ohio State Champ Comes to Aid of Fellow Runner Yet Some Belittle Act
By Kirk Mango.
As a teacher, former coach and athlete, parent of athletes, and one who has read and seen his fair share of sports and youth sports behaviors that are far from what we might expect, it was a pleasure to read about Ohioan athlete Meghan Vogel.
For a high school runner to take it upon herself to help a fellow exhausted opponent, one near collapse, during the Ohio state finals race, what a tremendous act of character. Ms. Vogel, a high school junior, actually put her competitors arm around her shoulders, supporting the girl’s weight, and nearly dragged her across the finish line from about 50 meters out, a true demonstration of good sportsmanship. However, as positive as this story is, there always seems to be those who try to spin it into something quite different. Something I feel important enough to address and clarify so as to not allow anyone to take away from the uncompromising act of kindness Meghan showed.
It was in perusing various articles on this story, and what happened, that I came across reference to some individuals’ negative, belittling comments. In fact, in several pieces Meghan’s mom, Ann Vogel, mentioned her surprise over these types of statements. A little miffed, I couldn’t help but hunt some of these negative comments down and, to be frankly honest, it was very unsettling to read them. Are people really this blind? I suppose that they are, especially when we take into consideration how pervasive the loss of perspective in our sports and youth sports culture has become. So, where the heck do I start?
Well…rather than give any further publicity to those who have no concept of what youth sports is all about, let me just say this:
Those who would try to minimize or disparage Meghan’s unselfish act of good sportsmanship have no idea what a real champion is all about. The type of dedication, work ethic, sacrifice, heart, etc., it takes to win a state championship, as Meghan did in the 1600 meter state championship race prior to the 3200, and then go out of her way to help a fallen competitor in another race, well…it is something they simply cannot comprehend. And if any of those belittling what Meghan did were lucky enough to have reached the high school pinnacle of their sport (which I doubt), then they learned absolutely nothing from their (semi-) successful experience as an athlete–NOT A THING!!!
Parents, coaches, teachers, all, should seek to instill this kind of good sportsmanship in the individuals they are responsible for. Heck, people in general should aspire to reach Meghan’s level of maturity and character. It is a rare and very positive thing. This girl, she KNOWS the right thing to do. Meghan’s genuinely human and kind act of helping a fallen comrade during competition speaks loudly about her character, the kind of character that certainly seems lacking these days. Being a champion, a true champion, is not just about “winning” the race, it’s about who one is on the inside and how they act both on the field (during competition) as well as off of it. Something too many have forgotten.
And for those who still may not get the connection:
“…true success or being a "winner" should not really be measured by the gold, silver, or bronze medal around your neck, but rather by the willingness, determination, sacrifice, and heart you apply in the process of your achievement. Those medals are just the outcome of this process.”
And part of that process centers on good sportsmanship, the kind of sportsmanship that inspired a state champion to help someone in need. Yep, Meghan Vogel has learned all about the process, not something I could say about the commenters referenced above. So for the few out there who thought it wise to minimize and/or belittle such a positive statement for our youth to aspire to, my advice would be to find time to comment on things you actually know something about.
About the Author:
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