founders blog extraordinary sportsmanship

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Founders’ Blog: Extraordinary Sportsmanship

jack welch



Do you ever cheer for the opponent?  Can you imagine the crowd actually enjoying watching both teams play a contest and cheering when both teams perform good plays?  Do you remember the movie Rocky IV?  Rocky gained the respect of the Russian crowd because they saw his grit and determination. That was just a movie, so how about real life?

My good friend John Valastro, Superintendent of Schools in Lumberton, recently shared a fantastic story of extraordinary sportsmanship with me.  In November of 2008, there was a football game played in Grapevine, Texas, between the Gainesville State School and Grapevine Faith Academy.  Faith Academy is a private Christian school and Gainesville State School is a maximum security correction facility.

The state school plays all their games on the road.  The team consisted of 14 players.  These players played offense, defense and all special teams.  When the game with Faith Academy was played, State had a 0-8 record and had only scored twice during the season.  They would travel with virtually no fan base (just correctional officers and a handful of relatives).  Their uniforms were old and the helmets and shoulder pads were not state of the art.

On the other hand, Faith Academy had a 7-2 record coming into the contest.  The team consisted of 70 players and 11 coaches.  Their uniforms and equipment was the best money could buy.   Their fan base packed the stands every game.

The Faith Academy head coach, Chris Hogan, knew the state school would not have any cheerleaders or fan base, so he decided to do something special for those players and coaches.  He sent an email out and asked half of the Faith Academy cheerleaders and “his teams’” fan base to cheer for the other team.  In his email he stated he wanted the inmates to understand they were valuable individuals and people cared about them.  He desired to give them dignity and pride.

Although many people were confused and surprised at the thought, they decided to go along with Coach Hogan’s request.  How do you think the State School players felt when they approached the field and the cheerleaders had a “run through sign” for them and hundreds of people in their stands cheering them on?

As the game played out, the cheerleaders cheered and fans yelled their names with encouragement.  You could see the players smile.  They hustled like never before.  They were amazed and played like a team! Isaiah, the quarterback and middle linebacker, said he was astonished to hear the crowd cheering him when he tackled and hit their players. “They knew our names,” he said.

Faith Academy won the game.  Although Coach Hogan wanted to go beyond the call of duty for sportsmanship, he wanted his team to play well and win the game.  Afterwards both teams met at the 50 yard line and prayed.  Isaiah prayed and said, “Lord, I don’t know how or who to say thank you to, but I never knew there were so many people in the world who cared about us.”  As the state school players walked to their bus, they were handed burgers, fries, a drink, candy, a Bible, and an encouraging letter from the players of Faith Academy.

This unusual act of sportsmanship is a great example people do not have to hate their opponents.  All children deserve to be cheered and applauded for “getting in the game”. Sportsmanship of this kind demonstrates that all participants are valuable and worthy of praise.  Coach Hogan encouraged an incredible act of Christian witness and kindness.  Proverbs 11:17 says, “Your own soul is nourished when you are kind.”

You know when I play Josh (my son) in horseshoes, I play to win. He consistently throws more ringers than I do and I have to say “Good job, you knucklehead”.  I keep trying to win but I come up short over and over again.

Today, tomorrow and next week, we can make a difference for people we come in contact with.  Play the game to win but demonstrate sportsmanship in the process.  Play, cheer and rejoice!  Go ‘Dawgs!

To view a clip about this story: (

Thought for the week, “It is good sportsmanship to not pick up lost golf balls while they are still rolling.”  Mark Twain

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