* JanDee *


     I love sports!
     Don't get me wrong.  I'm not talking about the many professional athletes of today who have developed a me-first attitude, after being raised in a win-at-all-cost generation.  A generation where role models are severely lacking, and most of the headlines that capture our attention are of those athletes who are in trouble.
     No, I am talking about high school sports, where lessons of life are still being learned, and where athletes still compete for the love of the game and their teammates.
     I know some of you are thinking, "The high school athletes of today are just as bad!"  And you would be partially right.  The me-first attitude is trickling down into the high school and junior high athletes.
     But in the midst of all of this is a young lady from Wisconsin.
     I first met Lisa Kincaid on the volleyball court as she played for a rival high school in the conference I coach in.  Many times I was on the opposing sidelines and could only watch in awe at her athleticism.  The speed of a cheetah, the mental toughness of veteran, and a 32 inch vertical jump!  (Unheard of for a high school girl.  And she was only a sophomore!)
     Starting her junior year, I was fortunate enough to coach Lisa on a USA Junior Olympic Volleyball team, and it was during these two years that my wife and I grew to love and respect her.
     If anyone had a right to be cocky or proud of herself it was Lisa. Besides being one of the best volleyball and basketball players in the state, she became a track legend in the Dairy State.  How good was she? She went 64 straight conference meets and never lost in any event she was entered in.  She made trips to the state finals all four years she was in high school, and came away with 6 state titles.  Many times she was the lone representative at the state competition for her team, and would single-handedly place her high school as high as third.  While she excelled in the triple jump, long jump, 100, and 200 meter dashes, there were times when her coach needed her to fill in for other events.  One particular day he asked her to run the 300 meter hurdles.  She had never competed in this event before, but the coach needed her that day for the good of the team.
How did she do?  She not only won, she set the school record in the first and only time she competed in that event!
     Never once did she ever brag about her accomplishments. In fact she felt uncomfortable talking about her achievements and would usually steer the conversation away from her and to the performances of her younger sisters or other teammates.
     There was one particular track meet during Lisa's junior year where she impressed upon me what is still good about sports these days.
     It was a non-conference meet late in the year and Lisa's coach told her he needed her to run the mile.  Lisa had never done so, but agreed to do what was best for the team.
     Lisa easily outdistanced the competition, but on the last lap, she '"seemed" to grow "tired."  Two athletes from the other team passed her, and then so did Julie, Lisa's teammate.  She was "able to stay just behind" her teammate and cross the finish line at Julie's heels.
     Lisa "lost" an event for the first time in her track career.
     You see, athletes in Lisa's track program need to earn a set amount of points in order to earn a varsity letter.  Lisa knew that Julie, who was a senior, needed to finish at least third to earn a letter for the first time.  Lisa also knew that the two athletes on the other team were most likely going to beat Julie, if they ran anywhere near the times they had been running all year, but that barring an injury during the race, Julie was a lock to finish third.
     But that was until the coach entered Lisa in the event.  Lisa remembered all this as she lined up for the start of that race, and I had often wondered why she had a slight smile on her face after having lost for the first time ever.
     After four years of working hard, Julie finally received her first varsity letter, and helped her team win the meet.
     And Lisa?  On that day that she lost -- she earned my respect and admiration, and in my mind, she solidified herself as the role model this generation sorely needs.

          -- Michael T. Powers   <Thunder27@aol.com>    c.1999