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— Much was written and said about the sudden death of Casey Russell, a football player from Gravette who died after contracting a virulent staph infection. The very tragic and sobering event took place during Gravette’s Homecoming Week, the week in which we were their homecoming opponent.

There was an outpouring of appreciation and admiration from Gravette boosters and community members towards the Pea Ridge School and community relating to the conduct displayed by our folks in that most difficult of times. A letter from one Gravette parent kind of sums up what the Gravette folks thought and felt.

“I would just like to take a moment to say your football team, your cheerleaders, your band, your fans and parents showed such compassion for our community on Friday night for our homecoming. There was nothing more that you could ask them to do. I have three children and I pray that if ever they are put into such a situation, that they remember that the “Pea Ridge Blackhawks” presented themselves at Gravette on the night of Sept. 25, 2009.

The scoreboard in no way reflected the character you all displayed and in the grand scheme of things “great character” can never be chalked up as a loss.

Thank you for setting such an example for my children and make sure those kids know it was all very muchappreciated. May God bless you all.”

Other e-mails from Gravette said things like:

“The ways in which your showed your genuine care and concern touched our hearts as we’re sure it did everyone else.”

“The way your students, parents, players and cheerleaders acted during our time of mourning was amazing. We are very thankful for that.”

“You have a wonderful group of students and we appreciate their kind hearts and how they treated our kids during a time that they are struggling for answers.”

“I want to commend your students for their sportsmanship and expression of concern for our students.”

It’s always more fun to win than lose, and sometimes people place so much emphasis on “winning” thatother more important aspects of the school athletic experience get ignored.

As a coach and fan myself, I really, really like to win, but the ultimate goal of an individual in an athletic program should be not so much what they win but what they become.

I once coached a track athlete who competed in the Los Angeles Summer Junior Olympics, winning three gold medals. I don’ t remember that particular athlete with much fondness because of his lack of character which led him into trouble later on in life.

There have been other kids that I have coached who might not have been “All Americans” but who later grew up to be stable, hardworking, honest, productive citizens, the ultimate goal of any credible coach or teacher.

Sports, Pages 9 on 10/21/2009

Print Headline: Ridger Sports Blackhawks showed great character

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