November 13, 2012

You Turn: Good Sports

Is there too much focus on winning in sports?

Jessica: As expected, West Liberty Salem High School student Meghan Vogel won the 1,600 at the 2012 Ohio State track and field championships

Meghan Vogel: I got my best time by ten seconds.

Jessica: So you must have been so happy but completely exhausted and then you had the two-mile.

Nobody expected what happened next.

Meghan: I was running my last lap, and I had about 100 meters to go, and I had noticed one of my competitors had fallen in front of me. So I kind of sped up and I caught her and kind of put her arm around my shoulders. And then we kind of stumbled together because she was dead weight. So I was basically carrying her by myself to the finish line.

Shawnda Henault: And the whole audience was going crazy. I was over there crying and everyone was screaming. It was just an amazing thing to watch.

Jessica: Some of those spectators posted the video on YouTube. Thousands of people watched Meghan’s act of good sportsmanship.

Why did you take yourself out of the race and help a competitor?

Meghan: I just knew it was the right thing to do.

Jessica: The right thing during a time some say we are used to seeing the wrong thing. Lance Armstrong stripped of his medals for allegations of doping, Olympic badminton athletes disqualified for trying to lose early round matches, or baseball’s most famous sluggers accused of taking steroids.

Meghan: Some people said that it restored their faith in humanity. I really don’t think that it did that because that’s not what I was setting out to do the whole time. I mean, I was just trying to help somebody.

Jessica: People called Meghan a hero, champion and ‘an example of the decline of American competitiveness.’

How do you react to that criticism?

Meghan: I think it’s kind of funny just because sometimes people just always have to see the negative side of things and they just can’t take something for what it is. I also think sometimes people focus on winning too much instead of just the experience of being with the team.

Kirk Mango: Everything is about winning and only winning.

Jessica: Kirk Mango has coached student athletes for nearly two decades.

How have high school sports changed over the years?

Kirk: People are into the idea of making money and the things that come with that. Things have become extrinsic in nature, meaning, ‘I’m playing to get a scholarship,’ ‘I’m playing to become rich or famous.’

Jessica: Is it easy to get caught up in that goal of getting the college scholarship or getting into the right school?

Meghan: Yeah, I definitely think it is. But sometimes you have to humble yourself and you’ve got to say, ‘Look, I’m in this for my team and not for myself.’

Jessica: According to the NCAA, only two percent of high school athletes receive a full or partial scholarship. A 2008 New York Times analysis of athletic scholarships found that of the 600,000 girls who competed in track and field, fewer than 10,000 won a scholarship. That was worth an average of about $8,100 a year.

Ann Vogel: The chances of an athlete getting a college scholarship are very small. So I think it has to be the love of the sport and having that sense of accomplishment that you really should be striving for, and not the fame and the glory that comes with.

Jessica: But as any coach or athlete knows… that is a tricky balance.

Shawnda: There’s a really high competitive spirit in track and cross-country. And you want to beat everyone you can, especially with a competitive team like ours. We’ve been trained that you want to beat everyone you can.

Jessica: How do you find that balance between being a good sport and also trying to win?

Shawnda: During the race, people will elbow you and stuff, and you have to keep yourself calm and… It’s hard but you just got to find the balance between being a good sport and doing what’s best for your team.

Meghan: I’m a very competitive person but sometimes you just got to take things for what it is.

Jessica: What it is for Meghan is that a college scholarship is a very real possibility. But she says it is the lessons she has learned on the track that will prevent her from getting off track.

Meghan: When I was younger, when I was kind of like, ‘Oh, just run for you,’ and you know, whatever else. Because I never had ran on a team before. But then when I got into middle school and our team was good, I was like, ‘Ok, I want my team to be better.’ I just think being on a team and just playing high school sports makes you focus on other people more than just yourself, and helps you to not be as selfish.

Jessica: Jessica Kumari, Channel One News.


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