Saturday, May 8, 2010

Collegiate Athletics: Not Just About Winning

Photo courtesy Devil Ball Golf, a Yahoo! Sports Blog

There are certain moments that really make you step back and think about what is truly important in life.

Getting beat out by a colleague for a raise for example does not seem so significant when you hear about suicide bombings overseas killing hundreds of innocent civilians. Perhaps the jerk that cut you off in traffic and caused you to be an extra minute later to work than you were already does not have as daunting a negative effect as does an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico ruining Louisiana's $2.4 billion seafood industry and decreasing tourism.

Even though it's human nature to "sweat the small stuff" it's about time we stop, take a deep collective breath, and think about what really matters.

Grant Whybark, a sophomore on the golf team at the University of St. Francis in Joliet, IL, has already embraced this philosophy. Whybark had locked up a spot in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Championship by winning the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Athletic Conference Championship. He was in a playoff with Olivet Nazarene's Seth Doran for individual honors in the conference tournament, whose winner automatically qualifies for a spot in the NAIA Championship.

Having already secured a spot in nationals for his team championship Whybark decided to take matters into his own hands and help ensure Doran, a senior who had never qualified for nationals, could earn a spot.

Below is an excerpt about the remarkable story.
What happened next is the type of stuff movies are made about. Whybark stood over his tee shot on the first playoff hole, looked down the fairway and back at his ball, and hit it 40 yards right of the fairway, out of bounds by a mile. He made double bogey, Doran made par, and Olivet Nazarene had a man in nationals.

What makes it so incredible? Whybark intentionally did it, because he felt Doran had earned a spot in the next round.
Selfless acts like this are why people are so enamored by amateur athletes in particular. It is not often you hear about stories like this from professionals, whose very livelihood depends on winning and losing.

College athletes represent sport in its purest form. Raw emotion, passion, and competitive respect serve as charming reminders that success can be measured not only by wins and losses but also by the lives we touch.

Whymark knew Doran could fulfill a lifelong dream by qualifying for nationals, so why would he be the man to stand in Doran's way having already qualified himself?

It is unlikely either player will play professional golf for a living. Perhaps they will pursue it and I wish them the best in their endeavors but the odds are against them coming from tiny NAIA schools. But to some, there is more to life than being a professional athlete.

After all, as the memorable NCAA ad says "There are 360,000 NCAA student-athletes, and just about all of us will be going pro in something other than sports."

Whymark is already a professional in my mind, though. A professional hero. Kudos to you, sir.

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