Jace Kuyper is a freshman at Arizona State University. A graduate of Sunnyslope High School in Phoenix, Jace earned regional scholar athlete awards for both golf and basketball. He was the starting guard on the school’s state championship basketball team and a four-year varsity golf letterman. He also received the Josh Conrad Scholarship, which is awarded to the student-athlete who most exemplifies character, leadership and integrity. In the spring, Jace was asked to write an essay on what pursuing victory with honor meant to him. His response came as a result of participating in many years of recreational and competitive sports. During his senior year, he fought through the pain of a torn groin muscle and third degree burns on his chest. He never missed a game or practice, and never complained. Jace’s father, Tom, played basketball at Arizona State and has coached at the high school and collegiate level. He is an analyst for Sun Devil basketball games on TV and radio, and a columnist for the Arizona Republic. In one of his weekly “Kids in Sports” columns, he included Jace’s essay. The words in the essay capture the essence of sportsmanship. The AT&T National Sportsmanship Awards salutes Jace for his inspiring response and commendable approach in life and athletics.
Pursuing victory with honor means you consider others to be more important than yourself. There is no honor in fighting your way to the top if you have trampled on others to get there. You fight through adversity, giving it your all; making no excuses and no complaints.
When you’re injured, you make the necessary adjustments, fighting through the pain and using what is left with more vigor. When all the odds seem against you, you buckle down and focus on what you have to work with, not looking for excuses, but looking for the way to get it done with integrity and honor.
If the officials call a tight game, you adjust your game, backing off a little; if their style is loose, you can play a little more aggressively. Complaining about the officials only creates frustration for everyone. You exhort your teammates, knowing that by lifting them up and making them look better, the team succeeds, and everyone wins.
It’s important in victory to be gracious; affirming the other team’s efforts, not gloating, but preparing mentally and physically for the next game.
At practice, you don’t count down the minutes until it’s over, but you are fully engaged, working every bit as hard as you would in a game. Leaving out honor in the pursuit of victory is not true victory, just one empty win soon forgotten. Honor is what lasts and those who pursue it are the truly victorious.