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The Day Lisa Lost

By Michael T. Powers

From his new book, Heart Touchers "Life-Changing Stories of Faith, Love, and Laughter."

I admire athletes! Don't get me wrong. I'm not talking about the many professional athletes of today who have developed a "me-first" attitude, after being raised in a "win-at-all-cost" generation, where role models are severely lacking, and too many of the headlines that capture our attention are of those athletes who are in trouble. No, I am talking about high school sports, where lessons of life are still being learned, and where athletes still compete for the love of the game and their teammates.

I know some of you are thinking: "The high school athletes of today are just as bad," and you would be partially right. The "me-first" attitude is trickling down into the high school and junior high athletes.

In the midst of all of this, however, is a young lady from Wisconsin.

I first met Lisa Kincaid on the volleyball court as she played for a rival conference high school. Many times I was on the opposing sidelines as a coach, and could only watch in awe at her athleticism: the speed of a cheetah, the mental toughness of a veteran, and a 32-inch vertical jump! She possessed skills unheard of for a high school girl -- and she was only a sophomore!

Starting her junior year, I was fortunate enough to coach Lisa on a USA Junior Olympic Volleyball team, and it was during these two years that my wife and I grew to love and respect her, not only for her many athletic achievements, but for her unselfishness and humility toward those around her in the face of the many honors that were bestowed upon her. Besides being one of the most coachable athletes I have ever had, she was the epitome of a team player and went out of her way to be humble.

If anyone had a right to be cocky or proud of herself, it was Lisa. Besides being one of the best volleyball and basketball players in the state, she became a track legend. How good was she? She went sixty-four straight conference meets and never lost in any event she entered. She made trips to the state finals all four years she was in high school, and came away with six state titles. Many times she was her team's lone representative at the state competition, and would single-handedly place her high school as high as third. While she excelled in the triple jump, long jump, 100- and 200-meter dashes, there were times when her coach needed her to fill in for other events. One particular day he asked her to run the 300-M hurdles. She had never competed in this event before, but the coach needed her that day for the good of the team. How did she do? She not only won, she set the school record in the first and only time she competed in that event!

Never once did she ever brag about her accomplishments. In fact she felt uncomfortable talking about her achievements and would usually steer the conversation away from herself and to the performances of her younger sisters or other teammates. Besides coaching her in volleyball, I was able to see her at many track meets, as I was hired to produce track videos by other high schools in the conference for my video production company. I saw many instances where she would loan her shoes to someone who forgot them, or slow down at the end of a race to finish up stride for stride with her sister, both of them smiling from ear to ear as they crossed the finish line together. Also, I vividly remember Lisa going up to an athlete from a different team and wishing her a happy birthday. The young lady's face just beamed as she told Lisa of her birthday plans for later that night. I was smiling as I walked away, because I happened to know that it was Lisa's birthday that day, too, but never once did she mention it.

However, there was one particular track meet during Lisa's junior year that she impressed upon me what is still good about sports these days.

It was a non-conference meet late in the year and Lisa's coach entered her in the 1600-meter race. Lisa had never competed in this event before and was puzzled as to why she had been entered.

Lisa easily outdistanced the competition, but on the last lap, she "seemed" to grow "tired." Two athletes from the other team passed her, and then so did "Jane," Lisa's teammate. Lisa stayed just behind her teammate and crossed the finish line at her heels...

Lisa "lost" an event for the first time in her track career.

You see, athletes in Lisa's track program needed to earn a set number of points in order to earn a varsity letter. Lisa knew that Jane, who was a senior, needed to finish at least third to earn a letter for the first time. Lisa also knew that the two athletes on the other team were most likely going to beat Jane if they ran anywhere near the times they had been running all year, but that, barring an injury during the race, Jane was a lock to finish third. That was until the coach entered Lisa in the event.

Lisa remembered all this as she lined up for the start of that race, and I wondered why she had a slight smile on her face after having lost for the first time ever, until I figured out the rest of the story.

After four years of working hard, Jane finally received her first varsity letter, and helped her team win the meet. And Lisa? On that day, she earned my respect and admiration, and in my mind, she solidified herself as the role model this generation sorely needs.

"Sometimes you can lose and still win."

(Lisa has continued her success at the college level where she is pursuing her education at UW Madison on a track scholarship. Although she is now competing against the best athletes in the country, she continues to win both on and off the track.)

Michael T. Powers

Copyright © 1999 by Michael T. Powers, All rights reserved

The story above is from his new book:  Heart Touchers "Life-Changing Stories of Faith, Love, and Laughter." Click on the link below to order yours!

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