And I was greatly heartened in 2008 to find many examples of athletes and coaches who followed these precepts or adapted them well to their given circumstances.
As a result, I'm happy to announce my first annual 2008 Right Perspective Awards for those who did the right thing for the right reasons in area sports. They are listed in no particular order.
KEVIN WILD, BROWN DEERBeing a throwback four-sport athlete (football, basketball, golf and baseball), and a talented team-first type of kid, Wild is an easy choice. What makes his selection even easier is that he led his spirited and senior-dominated basketball team to a share of the Woodland Conference basketball title in a wild and woolly finish that saw four squads share a bite of the championship.
Then he followed that by fighting off arm troubles to lead the underdog baseball team to its first state tournament berth in 26 years by turning himself into a virtual one-man siege gun. Coaches could not say enough about his commitment and sense of self-sacrifice.
"He always put whatever sport he was involved with at the time first and foremost," said former Falcon basketball coach and Athletic Director Mike Novak.
MEGAN PALMER, WHITEFISH BAYPalmer rode a roller-coaster of emotion from the fall of 2007 to the fall of 2008. Included among those feelings were heartbreak as the Blue Duke cross country team fell just short of a first-ever state team title in the fall of 2007.That was followed by elation in the spring of 2008 as a fresh and rested Palmer won the 800-meter title at the state track meet. But her joy was short-lived, as this past fall, Palmer struggled in cross country as she had to often relinquish her team front-running role to others. No matter, she didn’t carp or complain, but accepted a vital scoring role further back in the pack as the Blue Dukes finally did claim that first state team title.In discussing things with her later there was no talk of the disappointment of the “I” only the joy of the “We”.
CALLIE BURROWS, MENOMONEE FALLSTaking three runner-up finishes in the WIAA State Track Meet in the hurdles over a two-year span, twice to the same competitor, might make a person feel embittered or frustrated but not the three-time school record-holder Burrows.Especially considering that in 2008, both of her losses were to good friend Lindsay Schwartz of Watertown, whom she saw again and again in both the regional and sectional competition.“She (Schwartz) wanted to know how I felt,” Burrows said. “She pretty much knew what I was thinking and how I felt. ..Winning would have been pretty good, but I just know that I’m a very blessed girl. I really wanted a PR and that’s what I got.”
TORY BAUMAN, NICOLETNot only did the senior golfer defend her state individual title in classy fashion this past October, she also did two other things to both secure her future and make sure she was living entirely in the present. She looked to her future by accepting a scholarship to the University of Denver and then she made sure she was enjoying her remaining time as a high school student by becoming the only senior on the youthful but blissfully talented girls basketball team. She’s just a role player, but hoops coach Corey Wolf said that Bauman is a tremendous role model to the freshmen and sophomore-dominated squad.
ALY CORAN AND JACKIE EGELHOFF, HOMESTEADYes, the supremely-talented and nationally-ranked freshman Coran dominated the girls state tennis ranks this fall, winning the Highlanders first-ever state singles title and leading them to a first-ever team title, but it was how she did it that makes her worthy of this list.Because among her training partners was four-time state champion from Cedarburg Caitlin Burke. Sessions with Burke taught Coran technique, humility and grace and reinforced what her former Nicolet state doubles champion mother Dr. Judy (Becker) Coran said about tennis:“This sport will keep you humble.”For Egelhoff, the Highlanders long-time coach, it was a time to give thanks to her late father Rollie Mueller. Egelhoff and her sister Barb were groundbreaking players and coaches before there was Title IX and the reason was because their father had the forethought and good wisdom to provide them both with the racquets as well as an undying love for the game.
MARK VAN ALSTYNE AND SAM ISCHE, MENOMONEE FALLSBoth were depth guys “Can-do Charlies” for the boys track team in previous years, but in their senior campaigns of 2008, both Van Alstyne and Ische took leadership roles and led the Indians to the Greater Metro Conference championship.The pair, who have known each other since second grade, made themselves into top-notch sprinters, valuable at all distances up to 400 meters. Furthermore, they were the “glue” guys who never let a junior-heavy team get frustrated when things went wrong. Though both earned medals at state later in the season, the conference title, the team reward, was what was most important to them.“The biggest thing is not the records or the good performances, but the team success,” Van Alstyne said. “..It’s just great to be a part of it all.”
FRITZ RAUCH, TOM FUGATE, JERIDON CLARK, TODD REINEKING, JIM CHOSSEK AND MATT WOLF HOMESTEADAs lead assistants on the state championship football team for Homestead, this sextet was responsible for a lot of the dirty work in preparing the Highlanders to win their second state title in three years.Rauch, the defensive coordinator and leader of the amazing unit that paved the way for the 2006 championship, created another talented backstop that held powerful defending champion Arrowhead to three touchdowns below its average in the 13-11 finals win.UW-Oshkosh coach Pat Cerroni calls Rauch “a genius, who should have his own head coaching job”.When told of Cerroni’s comments, the hard-charging and cerebral Rauch just chuckled and said “He’s one who should know.”Meanwhile, Wolf and Chossek had to step into a formidable breach. The entire offensive line had graduated and the previous coordinator took another coaching job in the area. No matter, Chossek, the wily old veteran and Wolf, the loud and demanding face of the unit, worked together to rebuild the line, giving an underclassmen-dominated set of athletes the know-how and confidence that helped the offense hold up its end and score more than 34 points a game.
THE FANS, COACHES AND PLAYERS OF THE GERMANTOWN/MENOMONEE FALLS ICE BEARS HOCKEY TEAMIt was a rollicking and fun close to the season last winter as the six-school co-op made an historic first-ever run to the WIAA sectional finals. It included many little grace notes, among them the fact that students at Germantown’s Turnabout dance the night of the sectional final against University School left the event early to get to Brookfield to catch part of the game.Then there was the fact that players from Germantown passed out tickets at school during the season so students would get interested in the sport.Then there was the five-day team bonding session in the summer that turned students from the various schools involved in the program into a tight, cohesive unit. And that came before the unspoken agreement they made to one another to sacrifice free time and jobs to truck all the way out to the Kettle Moraine Ice Arena in West Bend at all hours of the day or night to play and practice in freezing conditions.Given all that, the fact the Ice Bears lost their chance at state to USM by a 3-1 score was almost incidental.
“The pep band was there and the place was practically full,” coach Al Haga said of the sectional final. “It was a real college atmosphere.”
COACH SARA PETRIC AND THE GERMANTOWN GIRLS SWIM TEAM
Homeless for years as a result of the complete breakdown and ultimate destruction of the old Warhawk pool, this vagabond 18-person squad turned Homestead into a home-away-from home, car-pooling to their rivals' pool for practice and putting into perspective the fact that they were last on a long list of people who wanted to use the facility.
They had to ask opponents to accomodate them on such usual and matter-of-fact team events as senior night and parents night as they never have a "home" meet. Little matter, as they never complained and remained competitive in every meet they were in, earning many WIAA state qualifiers in the process. All that effort was put in to keep in place and alive a storied history that includes two WIAA state team championships and several individual and relay state titles
Petric, a Homestead graduate and state champion in her own right, couldn't be prouder of the unit. State meet qualifer Marin Thompson said its simply something that has to be done and opponents have given their profound respect for the sacrifices that are made to keep such a dream alive.
"For them to continue the team like they are is a great thing," Homestead coach Mark Gwidt said, "and maybe the community will see what they're doing (and raise the funds to build a new pool)."
STEVE O'BRIEN AND THE STAFF BEHIND THE JOHN CHEKOURAS CLASSIC BOYS BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT, HOMESTEADThis one's an easy choice. O’Brien was the long-time assistant and even closer friend to the late Homestead basketball coaching legend Chekouras and he gave an elegant tribute to his friend last fall when he served as presenter when Chekouras was inducted into the WBCA Hall of Fame. It’s also for the Homestead staff, who had the brains and heart to put the holiday-based tournament named in Chekouras' honor, in the old noisy, small gym (as opposed to the large, functional fieldhouse) that was home to most of the games Chekouras when he was head coach. Of the old gym, one tournament ticket-taker said: “It was a place John loved”.There are others of merit I’ve no doubt missed here, but I'll try to do better and be more inclusive in future years. Just remember, I commend all efforts on behalf of fair play, perspective and honesty in sports. With the pro and collegiate ranks filled with $50,000 seat licenses, $160 million contracts, and coaching carousels that have more to do with ego and prestige than with loyalty and winning, they are traits badly in need of buttressing.So do please continue to be role models and remember to be true to yourselves. Also, if you can, please value the important example Dr. Pausch set when he decided to spend his last months living, instead of worrying about dying. As he well knew, it indeed is all about how you play the game.