Building GREATNESS within

By: Jim Linsdau/News Messenger Sports Editor
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It is unfortunate that it sometimes takes tragedy to unite us. After all, it was the attack on the World Trade Center in New York 11 years ago that shook us out of our doldrums and awakened our American patriotism. Of course, tragedy doesn’t always take place on the world stage; oftentimes it is much closer to home. Case in point was the deaths of Travis Whalen, Jake Waterlyn and Aldo Aguilar; two Lincoln High graduates and one that would have graduated last year. I didn’t know these young men but I do know Aguilar’s death certainly affected the 2011 football team. The Zebras dedicated their season to him. That set the wheels in motion motivating Lincoln High Principal Jay Berns to seek a character education program known as a “Character Combine” to help educate students on the importance of personal self-worth, accountability, respect for self and others and high-level character. “At Lincoln High, we’re ready to surge,” Berns said. “We will be right there with everybody else.” Berns said he not only wants to do a seminar with renowned character coach Kevin Bracy, who has built a reputation motivating people to greatness, but to also develop an ongoing program at the school – but it does come with a price tag. First, it must be pointed out that the families of these three young men have come forward with a generous gift of $5,000 toward this cause. That’s a sign of tremendous character right there; getting past their own grief so others hopefully won’t have to experience the same. I believe the monetary goal for this program is $30,000. That amount is now a third of the way along thanks to funds also raised through a MUD RUN for Life sponsored by the Lincoln Rotary Club. Sports can also play a big part. In my job, it is a pleasure to witness the outstanding character of many of the young athletes I meet. I have to say, the schools, coaches, and boosters are already doing a pretty good job there. But it isn’t a given. Intense competition can also bring out some pretty nasty character flaws. Not every athlete has the emotional ability to look past the score and see there’s much more to the game than winning and losing. I’ve seen this first hand with an athlete I covered a few years ago. He could both distinguish himself on the field and court with outstanding play, and then totally embarrass himself and his teammates with totally outrageous behavior. It was sad to see because he had tremendous potential. On the other hand, I’ve also seen boys become men and girls women through the challenges of hard work and exemplary sportsmanship. Not every teacher, coach, student or player can accomplish this but it is certainly worth the effort. I applaud Principal Berns in his endeavors and hope his character combine proves effective. It has been said, the good, they die young. We’ve lost too many too soon to not try. Then perhaps, it will be triumph that brings us together, not tragedy.