Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Eye Black Challenger - Jake D.

We all know the phrase "to the victor belongs the spoils" but more athletes are left on the losing side at the end of the season than the winning side. We all experience loss and we appreciate a winning attitude in the face of disappointment, whether it is in sports or life in general. Below is the story of Jake, a middle school athlete, who has learned to take things in stride and keep on trying, because better days lie ahead.

Parents always have stories about their athletes and how they were born with a ball in hand. But when I tell you that Jakob D. learned to walk so that he could put the ball in the Little Tykes basketball hoop, I do not exaggerate. It was his mission at 9 months of age and he quickly accomplished that goal.

In the 11 years since, Jake has spent every season immersed in the next sport. Fall is tackle football, winter is basketball (his favorite) and spring is baseball. One summer he even did a 3 week intensive junior lifeguard program (in the ocean) and at 9 years old, competed in a regional event bringing home a 4th place ribbon for the long distance run.

This year, we have been gearing up for the middle school try-outs. School sports are where it begins to get very competitive and it’s not the community league where everyone gets to touch the ball! In fall he tried out for the baseball team, but didn’t make it. He was fine with that because he has only discovered baseball in the last two years - not like many kids in our community who start T-Ball at age 4!

After several weeks of intramurals, in which Jake played every game except for one, last week came basketball try-outs. Starting on Tuesday morning at 7:30 am (the first day back from holiday break - brutal!) and every day that week, Jake reported to the gym to prove his worth. There was the required 7minute mile - in the 30 degree weather - something to which we Floridians are not accustomed. Then came the “suicides," then the “double suicides” which had to be done in 1 minute, 12 seconds in order to make the cut. Jake did the “double suicide” in 1minute, 11 seconds - out-performing other upperclassmen.

Each day the coach made a cut and day after day Jake endured until the last day. He was the last 6th grader standing. Friday he reported for 7:30 practice and felt he performed very well. But when the try-outs were complete, his name was not on the roster. He took it in stride and said “Oh, well. Maybe next year.” We all knew how hard he worked and it just didn’t seem fair! But we could not have been any prouder of Jake. He was a great sport and a team player. He felt he had grown tremendously from the training of the try-out process. And the very next day, Jake’s community league basketball team won 23-21! Life is good.

--Heather Storm

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