The following are inspirational stories of athletes and others who through their actions have made a difference in their own life as well as the lives of others.
Some have triumphed over great adversity, while others simple followed their values and principles to demonstrate that a single action can create ripple effects that touch and inspire the lives of others.
April 14, the Roncalli High School’s girls’ freshman softball team from Indianapolis, a team who had not lost a single game during its past two seasons, was scheduled to compete against a new opponent. Their opponent that day was Marshall High School, a team that was about to play their first game as a school.
Marshall arrived to the field with a set of mismatched catchers gear, a bag of extremely overly used gloves with no padding, 2 bats, 5 balls, and 2 coaches who had never played softball, one of which had never seen a softball game. The girls on the team showed up with no cleats, no sliding shorts, no long socks, no gloves of their own, no batting helmets, and no experience playing softball.
Upon their arrival and after speaking with Marshall’s coaches, Jeff Traylor, the junior varsity softball coach for Roncalli, learned that it was their first game ever, most of the girls had never previously played softball, and they had only been practicing for a week. He also saw that the inexperienced coaches weren’t sure how to fill out the team’s lineup card so he helped them. Then he offered to stay in their dugout and answer any questions that the Marshall coaches had and they accepted his offer.
As the game began, Jeff realized their opponents were not prepared to play. He could tell by the comments and actions of the players and coaches that the Marshall team did not understand the fundamentals of the game. Jeff spent time answering questions such as “which one is first base?” and “how do I hold this (bat)”. They didn’t know where to stand in the batter’s box, and their coaches had to be shown where the coaching boxes were.
After an inning and a half of girls not knowing where to stand in the box and their pitchers walking 9 batters, it was clear that the contest was shaping up as a mismatch between the teams. Traylor arranged a conference between Marshall’s coaches and the coaches of Roncalli’s freshman team. They talked about stopping the game and having the Roncalli team teach the Marshall players the game. Their coaches talked to the Marshall players about this but the Marshall players did not want to stop playing. “The Marshall players did not want to quit,” Traylor recalls, “They were willing to lose 100 to 0 if it meant they finished their first game.”
Roncalli’s coaches, Sarah Barna and Laura Laycock, offered to forfeit the game to avoid humiliating the Marshall team, even if that meant breaking their winning streak. That’s when the Marshall players decided if Roncalli was willing to forfeit for them, they should do it for themselves.
During the stoppage of play, Jeff was getting requests from many of the players on his JV team at Roncalli to come into the Marshall dugout and work with their girls on stance and hitting.
Then the Roncalli freshman team came over to the Marshall team, introduced themselves and took the field with the Marshall girls to show them positions, how to field a ground ball, how to throw, how to catch, and where to stand. Roncalli kids teaching Marshall kids the right batting stance, throwing them soft-toss in the outfield, teaching them how to play catch. They showed them how to put on catching gear, how to pitch, and how to run the bases.
Traylor notes “They were practicing hitting, pitching and fielding. I could see the determination and a desire [among the Marshall players] to just be better.” “One at a time the Marshall girls would come in to hit off of the [Roncalli] pitchers,” Traylor recalled As they hit the ball, their faces lit up. They were high-fiving and hugging the girls from Roncalli, and thanking them for teaching them [how to play] the game.”
“In sports, we’re taught that winning is everything, and being the best is what’s important. We’re very strong as a program at Roncalli. We win a lot of games. But this time, it was bigger than winning, bigger than the game. Our girls knew that. It was more important for them to be there for another person and help them.
Meghan Vogel, a 17-year-old junior at West Liberty-Salem High School, was in last place in the 3,200-meter run as she caught up to Arden McMath, a sophomore from rival Arlington High School, whose body was giving out. With just 20 meters to go in the race, Vogel was about to pass Arden McMath, when McMath collapsed on the track. Instead of running past McMath to avoid the last-place finish, Vogel stopped, helped McMath to her feet, placed McMath’s arm around her shoulders and carried her across the finish line, making sure to keep McMath ahead of her to have her finish before her.
Sara Tucholsky, a senior at Western Oregon University with a .153 career batting average, came to the plate in the top of the second inning with two runners on base. Tucholsky did something she had never done, in high school or college, she hit her first home run. Tucholsky excitedly sprinted to first base as the ball cleared the center field fence. She was so excited at hitting her first home run, she missed first base.
While she was doubling back to tag first base, Tucholsky’s right knee gave out. She was able crawl back to first but that was as much as she could do.
Western coach Pam Knox rushed onto the field and talked to the umpires. The umpires informed her that the only option available under the rules was to replace Tucholsky at first base with a pinch runner and have the hit recorded as a two-run single instead of a three-run home run. Any assistance from coaches or trainers while she was an active runner would result in an out.
“The umpires said a player cannot be assisted by their team around the bases,” Knox said. “But it is her only home run in four years. She is going to kill me if we sub and take it away. But at same time I was concerned for her. I didn’t know what to do.”
So without any options, Knox prepared to make the substitution, taking Tucholsky only home run away.
“And right then,” Knox said, “I heard, ‘Excuse me, would it be OK if we carried her around and she touched each bag?'” The voice belonged to Central Washington first baseman Mallory Holtman, the career home run leader in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. The umpires said there was nothing in the rule book which precluded help from the opposition. So Holtman and shortstop Liz Wallace lifted Tucholsky off the ground and supported her weight between them as they began a slow trip around the bases, stopping at each one so Tucholsky’s left foot could touch the base.
“We started laughing when we touched second base,” Holtman said. “I said, ‘I wonder what this must look like to other people.”‘ Holtman got her answer as they arrived at home plate. Accompanied by a standing ovation from the fans when they reached home plate, they passed Tucholsky to her waiting teammates.
The home run help send Western Oregon on its way to a 4-2 victory, ending Central Washington’s chances of winning the conference and advancing to the playoffs.
“In the end, it is not about winning and losing so much,” Holtman said. “It was about this girl. She hit it over the fence and was in pain and she deserved a home run.”
Holtman believes sports has made her a better person. “This is a huge experience I will take away. We are not going to remember if we won or lost, we are going to remember this kind of stuff that shows the character of our team. It is the best group of girls I’ve played with. I came up with the idea but any girl on team would have done it.”
Kevin Laue’s left arm ends at his elbow as the result of a pre-natal blood circulation restriction. Even with this limitation, Kevin excelled at basketball. Kevin attended Amador Valley High School, where he played and averaged about fifteen points, five blocks and six rebounds per game. He later enrolled at nationally ranked Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia, where he led the team in rebounding and blocked shots. He was recruited by numerous Division II and III colleges, but his dream was always to make it to Division I. His dream was realized when he earned a Division I scholarship to Manhattan College. Kevin Laue is first one-armed athlete to play for a Division I college basketball team.
Trent Glaze, an Ohio high school student, who has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair, has always dreamed of playing football. His physical limitations did not stop him from joining the Fairfield Union High School football team. Trent exhibited perseverance and dedication. As a senior, he was one of the team captains and he never missed a practice. After his team lost to Teays Valley High, Glaze had one of his biggest wishes come true. Both teams lined up for one last play. Glaze took a handoff from the quarterback and guided his motorized wheelchair into the end zone to fulfill his lifelong dream of scoring a touchdown.