We’ve all seen wonderful moments in youth sports that reward and spotlight a kid who rarely gets to play, or who might not have the ability to play a sport fulltime. As impactful as these moments are, they are often orchestrated by adults. We never know for sure if the young athletes in these situations are gaining valuable lessons or just following orders. But sometimes kids can teach us a thing or two about sportsmanship too. The kids of the Olivet 8th grade youth football team in Michigan provided an amazing model of sportsmanship that truly came from the heart. Their parents and coaches didn’t have to come up with a plan for them. These kids call their own plays – particularly when it comes to teammate Keith Orr.
Keith is a member of the Olivet team. Keith is also learning disabled. His teammates hatched a plan to get him in the end zone to score a touchdown during a game last fall. The boys kept the idea to themselves, though. No coaches or parents were involved. They didn’t notify the other team either.
Nick Jungel and Parker Smith revealed the kids’ plan. “Everyone was in on it,” Nick told CBS News. Parker then interjected, “But the coaches didn’t know anything about it. We were, like, going behind their back.”
The plan was to get the ball as close to the goal line as possible. If necessary, the preceding ball carrier would take a dive on the 1-yard line to set up the next play. Keith would then come in on a quick substitution and the others would form a wall of protection. He’d take the hand-off and run into the end zone for six points. The plan worked to perfection, and the crowd that had been stunned by the Olivet player intentionally downing the ball at the 1-yard line, slowly began to understand what happened: Keith Orr had scored a touchdown.
Keith’s mom Carrie told CBS, “It was like, ‘Did he just score a touchdown?’” Despite their surprise, Keith’s parents were touched by the gesture from the team. “Somebody is always going to have his back, from now until he graduates,” Carrie said.
When asked why they did this for Keith, the boys provided a mature and heartfelt explanation: “Because we really wanted to prove that he was part of our team and he meant a lot to us,” Jungel said. Wide receiver Justice Miller added, “Nothing can really explain getting a touchdown when you’ve never had one before.”
While Keith experienced the euphoria of scoring a touchdown, his teammates, specifically Justice, learned a deeper lesson. “I kind of went from being somebody who mostly cared about myself and my friends to caring about everyone and trying to make everyone’s day and everyone’s life.”