Saturday, August 30, 2008

HS Sports Can Lead To Awards For The Right Reasons

Among a few thousand fans at Eastern Michigan University's Rynearson Stadium, the Lions of South Lyon High School outran the Vikings of Walled Lake Central High by a 20-9 count in the first of four games that began at 11 a.m. yesterday as part of the Big Day Prep Showdown IV presented by Comcast Television.

But if you're truly counting winners, eight players stood out from the rest.

The big winners were the two recipients of a $500 scholarship presented in each of the four games by the Detroit Metro Sports Commission (DMSC). Eight players representing the eight participating schools earned a scholarship award. Representing Oakland County was Walled Lake Central's Cory Davis and South Lyon's Joesph Powell, and later in the day, Lake Orion's Aaron Gill was announced as the Dragons' scholarship recipient like Davis and Powell had been during halftime of their game.

DMSC Chairman Robert Porcher, a former Detroit Lion who ruled the defensive line for several seasons wearing the Honolulu Blue and Silver, said "The vision for the event is to celebrate not only football, but to acknowledge the tremendous academic and civic accomplishments of students from the participating schools who excel in their own pursuits."

It's likely most of the athletes playing or cheering on Rynearson's floor in yesterday's four games at EMU will never cheer or play football past high school. Of the lucky few to participate in college, maybe one player will ever have more than a pipe dream of playing in the National Football League (NFL) like Porcher did. So the DMSC, with the statistical knowledge of these chances at pro stardom, gave the schools participating in yesterday's games complete autonomy to pick the winner, and encouraged the schools to use a formula of civic responsibility, school pride and academic achievement and need to determine a winner.

In short, it was about who represents Lake Orion, South Lyon and Walled Lake Central the best that mattered most, not who had the most tackles, who ran the fastest 40-yard dash or who could throw the tightest spiral. Who wore the school colors with the most pride and dignity? Who helped improve their community? Who could combine the words 'student' with 'athlete' with the most proficiency?

In Oakland County, some of our area school's athletic departments can look like a beachfront, with each wave of kids looking like a never-ending crash of water, one after another, one class of kids after another, year after year. The names, records and sports start can easily start to meld together in a blur.

It's really all about providing opportunity to the entire student body, and taking time to recognize the outstanding contributions of the student-athletes that strive to embody the true ideals within the term 'student-athlete' is, in my humble opinion, one of the very best parts of school sports.

~T.C. Cameron is the author of Metro Detroit's High School Football Rivalries, now available at all major retailers

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