On the morning of September 1st, 2014, Jordan Woodvine woke to a cell phone buzzing with excitement. The 5-foot-11 the South Salem High School junior’s phone became flooded with Division I college basketball coaches trying to recruit her. Five years ago, Woodvine had never even played a competitive sport. “I just woke up to texts from Arizona or like a couple other coaches and I was like, this can’t be happening. Why are they talking to me?” she said. Woodvine has developed in the sport so rapidly, she has risen to the upper echelon of high school basketball players.
Before Middle School, Woodvine was always one of the taller kids for her age and a natural athlete, but she preferred hanging out with her friends to aggressively playing a sport. Just as she was entering seventh grade, a friend of hers, Colton Posey, who now plays basketball at Sprague, invited her on a travelling boys basketball team. She wasn’t very good at first, she admits, but kept at it. “I’d shoot it like a volleyball, like if you were just setting a volleyball,” Woodvine said. “I spent countless hours with my coach, Mitch Posey with my elbow against the wall, hand straight and just pushing the up the wall to get a follow through on my shot. Needless to say it really did help.”
“She’s just kind of made up for lost time,” South Salem coach Nick McWilliams said. “She would be a little bit better if she started earlier, but she’s a very good player right now. She’s picked up things real quickly, and taken the things that we teach her and worked on them and gets better that way. But I guess on the positive side, she’s notgoing to burn out as soon as some kids might who have been playing their whole life.”
Woodvine’s background of playing against mostly boys presents in the aggressiveness, typically not seen at the high school level. She’s fearless when it comes to taking on players that are larger than her. “It definitely makes her hard to guard,” said senior Katie McWilliams. “She can make any move on anyone. She’s so quick with her moves, too. That helps. She can just get to the basket whenever she wants. She doesn’t always have the confidence to do so, but she definitely can at any time.”
For the past few years, Woodvine has played for the Oregon Elite Basetball Club, coached by Gary Lavendar. Her skills and profile with college coaches have grown tremendously. “I fully committed to his team last year and we travelled to Tennessee, North Carolina and Arizona, those were our three big tournaments, and I’m going to continue to play for him,” Woodvine said. “I’ve learned so much from Gary. He’s such a great coach who spends his time and dedicates his time to us. All he does is live, eat and breathe basketball. It’s nice to have such a great coach like that.” As a sophomore, Woodvine was first-team all-Central Valley Conference, second-team all-6A state tournament and honorable mention 6A all-state after averaging 13.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game.
Woodvine has developed at such a rapid pace, bringing her to the forefront of Division I recruits. “She’s got the tools that they want,” Nick McWilliams said. “She’s got the size and the athletic ability and the skills, and she continues to improve. Those are the things that they’re looking for.”]]>
For Central Bucks West senior, Nicole Munger, Tuesday’s game against Pennridge meant the opportunity to reach her 1,000-point milestone. Although she was only 12 points away from the goal, Munger didn’t want to get to celebrate until after the game. “I knew the situation, and I don’t want to take anything away from it — I was really excited for it, but I like to go with the flow,” Munger said. “This year, we’ve been really playing as a team. I think that’s what has really gotten us where we are. I didn’t really want anything individual.” With 5:23 remaining in the end of the opening half, Munger sunk a fadeaway 3-pointer, which took her past the 1,000-point mark. She became the first Central Bucks West girl to reach 1,000 career points since Lauren Peters in 2008.
While low key about her victory, the fans in the bleachers roared with excitement. “We were so excited,” West senior Mackenzie Carroll said. “We wanted to make it so special for her, and of course, she was being so modest about it and wanted it low-key. In the third quarter, she swept up another 12 points, totaling 17 in the second half. The Bucks closed out the game 35-16; Munger sunk six 3-pointers. “It’s amazing,” West coach Terry Rakowsky said.
“We talked about how to celebrate, and even that little bit we had was too much for her. Actually, we had a little emotional letdown after that. But they all pulled for her. She just leads by example on the floor, off the floor and in the classroom. She’s a great kid.”]]>
In Jefferson County, Colorado, Conifer High School is things a little differently. The school has created the Adaptive Athletics program, which gets students involved with students with special needs. In her junior year at Conifer, student, Taylor Sader-Neade was looking for something a little different than the standard courses and decided to enroll in the Adaptive Physical Education class. “What we decided to do was give these students the opportunity to participate in athletics similar to what their peers do,” said Bryan Wickoren, the district’s adaptive physical education coordinator. Sader-Neade is one of the peer students in the adaptive physical education – a mentor for students with special needs. In addition to the gym class, about eight adaptive physical education students and twice as many peers participate in Jefferson County’s increasing number of inter-district adaptive athletics events. Not only are the participants of this program helping one another, they are creating lifelong friendships.
In 2007, the school District began the program by hosting a basketball tournament at a few schools. Today, tournaments are being held in seven additional sports, including bowling, soccer, basketball, softball, hockey, volleyball and, for the first time, a track and field day this spring. Anywhere from 12-18 schools participate with a total of 200-300 students. “It’s gotten to the point now where all schools are participating,” Wickoren said. “Even teachers are asking — they want to know about the next event and truly look forward to the days when we do this.” Conifer’s physical education teacher, Diana Baker-Low glows with pride about the support this program is receiving from the community. The program started with a strong foundation, but the work Baker-Low has done with both students and peer educators has elevated the entire experience. Jackie Delafose, Conifer’s assistant principal says it has been exciting to see the whole thing evolve into what it is today. “She’s been a breath of fresh air, from working with our students and working with our families,” says Delafose.
Sader-Neade commented on the program as not only being a time to involve students with special needs in athletics, but provide them with the opportunity to socialize with one another and take a breather from academia. “This is the program that those kids look forward to every other day,” she said. “They come running down to the gym. They really want to be there, they really want to participate.”]]>
Founded in 2007 by Anne Mahlum, Back on My Feet is a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that uses running as a tool to build self-esteem in the homeless. “We believe running instills confidence, motivation and goal-setting,” said Kristen Kouk, a spokeswoman for the Dallas chapter. “Take Jerry, for example. You can’t run 13 miles without putting the right training in. Running definitely teaches a lesson in delayed gratification and the value of hard work.” Jerry Crayton had always been athletic. He played football and ran track at Pinkston High School in West Dallas. When he joined the Navy, he played defensive end on the Subic Bay Admirals football team in the Philippines. Later, he even worked out with the Dallas Cowboys.
Crayton had everything going for him until his life took a turn for the worst in 2001. Personal issues with his marriage and a loss of trust from his three sons caused a falling out with his family. Without the support of his family, he began a descent into darkness. Unable to keep a job or apartment, Crayton ended up seeking relatives to take him in; but when patience wore thin for their houseguest, he sought refuge in his car.
Homelessness sometimes brings about a revival in one’s faith, where they are looking to a higher power for guidance. In 2007, after a religious conversion, Crayton ended up in a homeless program at the Dallas VA. This is where he met representatives from Philadelphia based Back on My Feet. “This is a program that not only tries to show you that you can do better, but they get out there with you to help you do better,” he said. The positive peer pressure is what kept Crayton coming back to the non-profit’s events. At first, when Crayton first became involved with the group, he was recovering from back surgery. He would come to the events and cheer everybody else on while leaning on his cane. Fast forward through 18 grueling months of training three days a week, Crayton and his trainer, Jana Hempen ran together for 13.1 miles. Miles 5 through 8 proved to be the most challenging, where the course rose to about 160 feet over the length of 4 miles. Crayton’s trainer, Jana Hempen said, ““It was amazing to watch. He went from barely being able to walk to running a half marathon.” Crayton finished in a little over three hours. After experiencing the euphoria of the race, Crayton said he understands why people make running a lifestyle. “I did it,” he said. “This is my first one, and I won’t be doing another one real soon. But there’s no doubt I’ll be running more of these in my life.” Today, Crayton has picked up the pieces. He has reconciled with his wife and moved into a home. He is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business at Mountain View College.
Back on My Feet has 11 chapters nationwide. 46% of Residential Members (those experiencing homelessness) move their lives forward with a job, housing or both. If you or someone you know is interested in the organization and would like to learn more, visit www.backonmyfeet.org.]]>
When you check your mailbox at home, what do you typically find? For most, it’s a mix of junk mail and bills. In an age where technology rules, we seldom receive a hand-written letter anymore. Imagine the surprise when students received not only a hand-written letter, but one that they had written themselves 20 years earlier! For nearly 40 years, Bruce Farrer has been keeping the thrill of a penned note alive for former English students. From 1977 until 2002, Farrer challenged his 14-year old students to sit down and write 10-page letters to their future selves. The now retired teacher says, “It’s an assignment that makes them think at 14, what do I want to do and am I on the right path?” Farrer then hung on to the letters so that students wouldn’t lose them or open them before 20 years had passed, and mailed them back after two decades. He tested the logistics of the assignment in 1961 while teaching at one-room schoolhouse, and from 1977 on, he has been giving the thought provoking assignment to the hundreds of students gracing his classroom.
Farrer’s inspiration for this assignment was fueled early in life. At age 11 or 12, he began to keep a diary which he looked back on when he started teaching. He was fascinated by his own thoughts as a preteen. “I’ve always had a sense of history,” he said. “I thought that it would be valuable for people raising children when they get the letters to remember what it’s like to be 14 years old. One student said the topics she wrote about as a teenager are the same ones her own 14-year-old daughter talks about when she gets home from school.” Former student Kate Marchildon has two older sisters who received theirs in recent years and hers will be coming soon. “I remember roughly what was going on in that point, but not specifically what I wrote, so I’m pretty curious,” she told TODAY.com. “I think it seems like it might be intimidating, but when you sat down to write it, it’s kind of neat to think about what your future might be. I’m just impressed that he was still tracking us all down.”
Farrer does the absolute best he can to track down all of his students, using the power of social media, like Facebook, to ensure they get their letter. A few students simply cannot be found, like John Cheers from an early 1980’s class. Unfortunately, not all of his students were able to enjoy this blast from the past. Farrer has sadly discovered that some of his students have passed away. “Sometimes I’ve contacted parents and said I had the letter, and it becomes a little part of that person that they’ve lost that they’re able to keep,” Farrer said. “Recently I was very disappointed after finding out a student died last year because I thought, if I had only sent that letter a year earlier.”
This project has made the 72-year old from Saskatchewan, Canada more of a detective than a teacher. “It gives me a sense of satisfaction when I find them,” he said. Farrer usually works on the letter project in March and part of April. He says he still has nearly 700 letters that will be need to be sent in the next 12 years. “I thought it would be something I could do in my leisurely retirement, but I’m still subbing 80 percent of the time,” he joked. Because of this project, Farrer has received more friend requests than the average teenager, coming from former students looking to reconnect with the man that gave them back a piece of their youth. After the long two-decade wait, it has been a cathartic experience for some students, who have publicly shared the contents of their letters on Facebook. “I think it’s been neat to see other people posting on Facebook what they thought they wrote to what actually happened,” Marchildon said.
Here is the video provided by WestJet:]]>
Karen Lunsford knows what it’s like to be a concerned parent. As a parent who wants nothing than to see her child thrive, she was shocked when her precious son was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. Karen and her family did not have the time to absorb what had just occurred to her son because just three days after the diagnosis, the tumor had wrapped around his brain and cut the blood circulation to his optic nerve, leaving him blind. Her son, Josh Lunsford spent six days at Brenner Children’s Hospital in Winston-Salem North Carolina under the care of some amazing physicians. At the end of the six-day stay, he was cleared to return home. Instead of resting and recovering like most kids would do after such a traumatic experience, Karen brought her son, Josh home and he immediately took to his toy box and hasn’t looked back. He has been thriving and motivating himself to do anything and everything that a sighted person would do.
Josh is now 14 years old and enjoys riding around on his dirt bike and four-wheeling. He’s also involved in the arts – singing and playing the guitar and mandolin. His Braillist, Denise Keller, and a woman from the county named Juliet Mauldin, assist him with his class work at West Wilkes Middle School, where he is currently an eighth-grade honor student and a member of the wrestling team. “Me and Daddy slinging each other around, pretty much me and Dad wrestling,” said Josh, of how he got involved in wrestling. He adds that this season has “been easy, just keep winning and it’ll be all right.” At just six years old, Josh began wrestling for the Wilkes Wrestling Club. “He’s a great kid and he puts forth a lot of effort, can’t ask for any better,” West Coach Raime Shaw said. “He’s there all the time just doing it.” His mother could not be more proud of his accomplishments. Karen says, “He is just so amazing. When he wrestles, when he wins, the smile on his face and all the children, the whole gymnasium stands up and it’s just really something to see.” So far this season, Josh is 4-0, with three pinfall victories and one win via forfeit. Josh has impressed not only his mother and coach, but he has caught the attention of local wrestling fans. One parent of a North Wilkes Middle School wrestler put Josh on his own personal website, while a policeman working one of the matches told Karen that he is “gonna watch him all the way to state.” Karen hopes that her son will be wrestling next year for the Blackhawks of West Wilkes High School. With such a positive attitude, there’s no doubt that Josh will be going far.]]>
Winner of the 2014 Sports Feel Good Story of the Year, Hollis Belger was awarded $500 for her submission. Submitted by her mother, Allison, Belger’s story showcases the 9-year olds daily soccer juggling using only her feet, while holding a fundraising campaign for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The world renowned hospital, which is located in Tennessee, is a leader in research to cure childhood catastrophic diseases. The organization treats children with cancer free of charge. Hollis’ program not only created awareness, but also raised over $32,000 for the organization.
The Sports Feel Good Story of the Year contest was launched in May of this year and entries were received from all around the U.S. and the world. The five finalists were selected in November, and consisted of entries from California, Minnesota, Maryland, Canada, and India. Votes from sports fans and the general public from the month of November were compiled to determine the winner, which was announced December 8th. The second place winning was “Hockey Coach’ Assessment: The Kids Get It,” submitted by Darren Ferris, and Third place went to Justin Johnson’s, “NFL Retires to Donate Kidney to his Brother” submission. Congratulations to everyone who submitted. It’s truly inspiring and encouraging to others to see what amazing things all of you are doing!
Do you have a feel good story? The Digital Sports team would LOVE to hear it! Feel free to post in the comments section below!
If you would like to donate to St. Jude Children’s Hospital, please visit their website at www.stjude.org.]]>
“The team never needs an individual but the individual always needs a team” are words that Coach Tom Sexton lives by. At 76 years old, he has been coaching cross country at Cheltenham High School since 1966. Sexton is a man who has been shaped by his experiences and a passion for teaching others. In 1964, he started teaching English and Latin at Pitman High School in New Jersey, where he developed his philosophy on running, coaching, teaching, and life. “At that time, they needed a cross country coach, and I knew nothing about cross country,” Sexton remembered. “But I knew I liked to run and I knew I liked to stay in shape so I took the job.” Although he would have rather coached Basketball, he was going to do the best job possible at what he was given. Sexton has extensive coaching experience in basketball. He started attending coaching clinics and doing research. Specifically, he wanted to find out who the successful cross country coaches were and talk to them. “I wanted to learn from the best how to train people,” said Sexton, who, while dedicated, was a “recreational runner,” running a couple miles at a time. In 1966, he took over Cheltenham High School’s cross country program where he still holds the position today.
During his informal training years in cross country coaching, he learned from the best: Tom Donnelly, who won championships at Archbishop Wood and LaSalle College High School, and James Edward “Doc” Counsilman, to whom he has dedicated his book, “Creating a Team Like No Other.” The Coach turned Author developed the idea of writing a book during the time he taught a course to teachers called Invitational Education. “The basic philosophy of the course was, the more the teachers make the students feel respected, valued and appreciated, the higher the motivation is going to be,” Sexton said. “And I know it works, because I taught English for 37 years. It’s a totally positive approach to kids.” In 2004, he decided to teach the same course to coaches instead of teachers. Gauging the interest of people, he sent out surveys. He received over 200 stories of coaches experiences with their athletes, some inspirational and others disappointing. “You have to know how to treat people to get the best out of them,” Sexton said. “It’s just common sense and sound psychology.” He goes on to explain, “The more respect you give, the more you get back,” Sexton said. “The whole program is about respect. Kids are kids.” The book encompasses what he feels it means to be a successful coach. Sexton’s goal will always be helping others reach their potential, sports related or not, in whatever it is they want to do in life.
To order a copy of “Creating a Team Like No Other,” go to amazon.com or email the author at email@example.com.]]>
Five years ago, one night changed Charlie Davie’s life forever. Just two days before a big U.S. game, the 23-year old Soccer star accepted a ride home from a bar from someone he did not know was intoxicated. “At one second, I think I’m playing in the World Cup,” Davies says. “The next, it’s — people are wondering if I’m going to walk again.” The driver got into a car accident that split the SUV into two pieces, fatally injuring another passenger. Davies woke to find stitches all over his body. Bones had been shattered in his face, elbow, and goal-winning right leg, which just a few months before has scored a historic goal in Mexico for the U.S. Men’s National Team. Davies is known for being a very animated soccer player, thrilling fans with lightning speed, skill, passion and silly goal celebrations.
Although Davies’ body was weak, his spirit was stronger than ever. His wife, Nina supported him and helped him focus on everything he still has in his life. Less than a year after the accident, Davies was back on the field. His body was different; it didn’t move like it used to and he couldn’t keep up the way he did. His teammates weren’t as supportive as his wife and wondered why he came back to the sport. Davies was constantly in pain which was caused by titanium rod put into his right leg leaving it slightly tilted outward and 1 inch shorter than his left. Over the next three years, he played for different teams all over Europe and the U.S. His mind was acting out the glory days of Charlie, but his body didn’t respond. But, despite Davie’s physical regression, he never gave up. He refused to allow the injuries to take over his desire to play soccer. “He comes every day to the training ground, and he’s the first guy who has a story to tell to the guys to make them smile and laugh,” says, Gonçalves, team captain of the New England Revolution. The team signed him last year and kept him on this season. They are providing continued medical treatment and the time to recover and work on his form. “Just being able to wake up every day, I’m so thankful,” Davies says. “Every time I get to come to the locker room to practice or train, or just to be around the guys, I’m so happy.” Coach Jay Heaps for the Revolution says, “We gave him a stable environment, but he was fighting for his position every day, to the point that when he did get his chance, the staff was rooting for him, the entire team was rooting for him. I think that he’s been the inspirational guy, that every time he started the team wanted to help him play better, and I think that that’s a pretty amazing story.”
It has now been five years since the accident and Davies has worked hard to get his performance back to its former glory. “I’ve grown so much and feel like I’m not only a better person, I feel like I’m a better player for that,” Davies says. “He’s been huge,” says Revolution defender Andrew Farrell. “His perseverance and his fight through everything he’s had to go through shows when he gets on the field. And he’s in those instances when he puts those games away for us.” The New England Revolution played the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday for the Major League Soccer championship.]]>
Most would say that sports are a completely visual experience, but one of the most important aspects of Radio and TV broadcasting comes from the announcer. Being from the Philadelphia area, the voice of the Philadelphia Phillies, Harry Kalas, was a beloved part of our cities culture. For nearly four decades, the smooth, baritone delivery poured out of Veterans Stadium, before becoming Citizens Bank Park, and television speakers of fans in the Philadelphia/South Jersey region. A recipient of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award for his contributions to the game, Kalas was one of the last longtime announcers closely associated with one city. Another, Vin Scully, threw out the first pitch at the Los Angeles Dodgers’ home opener marking his own 60th year with that club. Kalas’ signature “Outta here!” home run calls will ring forever in our hearts as Phillies devotees.
Some people are just born with a voice that can take the action of a game and translate it into something so much more; turning sound into memories of some of the best and worst moments in sports history. The University of Missouri, a school known for its strong Journalism program, takes in hundreds of freshmen from across the country to learn about news or sports broadcasting. One of those freshman’s shining voices comes from Blake Tarrants. At 18 months old, Blake had an allergic reaction to a vaccine which caused inflammation of his brain and his optic nerves to shut down. Despite being blind, Blake has developed a strong love of sports and a passion for talking about the game. He grew up in Kansas City listening to the Chiefs and Royals games on the radio. “Even though I can’t see it the way everybody else can, the mental and vocal gifts I’ve been given and the amount of time I’ve spent around the games, it helps me form unique opinions and I think that’s what really gets people’s attention when the listen to me and that’s what people enjoy the most,” Blake said. Mostly, he gives the sports updates for newscasts and sits in on some of the talk shows.
A high school classmate of Blakes, Brandon Kiley is currently a producer for “The Big Show” on KTGR in Columbia, Missouri and has worked with Blake for the past few months. The observation aspect of sports broadcasting for Blake is replaced by the play-by-play man that announcers are only slightly reliant upon. “Despite not being able to see the game, Blake has many talents that make him a successful broadcaster,” Kiley says. “Blake can recall seemingly unimportant plays and give you exact details.” Kiley says he helps Blake a bit but hasn’t been his crutch, and can’t help but watch and enjoy when Blake works. One day, Blake hopes to reside in Kansas City, getting paid to talk about his favorite teams.]]>