Commentary | Prep athletes learning lessons beyond the games

jlembo@bradenton.comOctober 5, 2012 

BRADENTON

Manatee and Southeast's volleyball teams came together to battle breast cancer Tuesday night.

The Hurricanes' season-opening football game against Miramar garnered hoopla because it was broadcast live on ESPN2. But it also was played to help benefit the Wounded Warrior Project.

And back when Bradenton Christian and Sarasota Christian engaged in memorable games on the basketball court, the two rivals joined forces and raised a ton of cash for the late Anthony Negrin.

All causes were worthwhile. But aside from raising money, events like these serve another purpose -- they remind student-athletes of the power they possess.

Sports is all about teamwork. It's all about people coming together -- regardless of background, regardless of race, regardless of economic standing -- and pushing toward a common goal.

That goal is typically to win. That's important.

But sometimes the goal is to raise money or awareness, with the end result reminding teenagers what is really important.

Yes, they're students. Yes, they're athletes. But they're also impressionable kids whose education shouldn't be limited to the confines of a classroom.

The aforementioned Volley for the Cure at Southeast was an event. Southeast's pep band occupied a quarter of the bleachers, and the school's television crew was on hand to broadcast the match. The parking lot was at near capacity.

They were there for the cause, yes. But they were also there to watch volleyball, with the price of admission going toward Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Maybe it encouraged some of Manatee and Southeast players to look more into the dangers and symptoms of breast cancer. Maybe it gave some of them who have been

touched by the disease a chance to fight back. And maybe it gave them all a taste of the positive power of athletics. What better time to do it at such a young age?

Manatee's football team wore and still wear Wounded Warrior Project stickers on the back of their helmets, and following a practice one day, special teams coach Dennis Stallard told all the players to take a look at it and remember what they were playing for.

Later that night, the Hurricanes and their opponents, Miramar, came together for a banquet where the keynote speaker, Bob Delaney, went it to greater detail about the project and the good it does.

Don't think those kids learned something?

Don't think Bradenton Christian and Sarasota Christian learned about what's really important when they joined forces to help Negrin, whose family played such a pivotal role in BCS' boys basketball program?

Sports is about more than games and more than wins and losses.

They serve as a learning tool, too.

And it's a lesson the student-athletes shouldn't forget anytime soon.

John Lembo, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2097. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnLembo1878.

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