Lessons from St. Paul, Minnesota

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State Championships.

Wrestling. 

Pinned.

Sportsmanship.

In direct contrast to yesterday’s blog about the lack of sportsmanship in youth sports, this story from the high school state wrestling championship in Minnesota demonstrates all that is right in youth sports.

Mitchell McKee, a 120-pound sophomore, pinned his opponent, Malik Stewart to win the state title.  This win, however, was particularly dramatic for McKee because his father who is battling terminal cancer and is given months to live was there to witness his son’s victory.

Oh, but wait, there is more.

Stewart, who could have stormed off or at least sulked in the corner, walked over to first his opponent, then the opponent’s coaches and finally the opponent’s father to shake hands and embrace each of them.

“I went through the same thing when I was younger but my dad didn’t pass by cancer. It was by a heart attack, so I know what he is going through,” said Stewart, who said his dad died when he was seven years old.

The gesture was not lost on McKee.

“It was a big match for him and to be able to hug my dad like that and not be mad and storm off like a lot of kids do,” said McKee. “Really respectful.”

The crowd took notice and gave them all a standing ovation: a state champion, a father who for the last time most likely saw his boy wrestle and the opponent who demonstrated what a champion truly is.

For his part, Stewart seemed embarrassed by the attention.  Almost shrugging it off, Stewart commented, “”When you go out there, you want to win, but if you don’t win, you have got to be a good sport and you be polite. That’s the biggest part.”   

Thank you to Malik Stewart for reminding us why youth sports is a great thing and how a champion is developed.