At a time when the news is awash in stories of youth involved in gangs, bullying, or grappling with the usual challenges of growing up, we need to be reminded that there are far more kids out there doing good things and becoming better people, while teaching us adults a thing or two about being human. Olivet Middle School, located in Olivet, Michigan, has an 8th grade football team of which they can be proud.
As reported on CBS News, these players conspired against their coach, their classmates, and their parents in a way that surprised everyone, including themselves. Their natural adolescent inclination to rebel was channeled in a positive and uplifting manner. Their plan? Do not score. Instead, stop short of the goal line, and make what could be the substitution of the year, at any level of sport.
Which brings us to the second part of the plan. The team wanted Keith Orr, a special needs classmate of theirs, to make the Big Score. “We thought it would be cool to do something for him,” said quarterback Parker Smith. Or as teammate Justice Miller put in easily understood terms, “It’s just like to make someone’s day, make someone’s week, just make them happy.”
The plan came together beautifully, as no doubt the coaches and fans were stunned when Olivet’s ball carrier suddenly took a dive at the 1-yard line. For the next play, they brought Keith in, and nobody on the sidelines or in the stands even noticed. Crowding around him in a protective shield, they accompanied him into the end zone for the greatest touchdown scored anywhere.
“Nothing can really explain getting a touchdown when you’ve never had one before,” Justice explained. Keith’s parents, caught off guard, nearly missed the moment.
“It was like, did he just score a touchdown?” Keith’s mom, Carrie, wondered.
“Get your camera out!” his dad, Jim, remembered.
Carrie Orr summed up its true meaning to her and Jim: “Somebody is always going to have his back — from now until the day he graduates.”
Justice Miller was changed by this more than even he anticipated. What was meant as an encouraging and inclusive gesture has transformed into a profound life lesson on the meaning of giving to others. “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.” So much for the too-cool-for-school jock stereotype.
Sports is often championed by its defenders as a way of developing a team ethic, an appreciation of skill, and respect for rules of fairness and good conduct. We know all too well how these seem like hollow platitudes in the me-first, big money world of collegiate and professional sports. Take note, parents, coaches, and community sports boosters — the kids at Olivet Middle School are real role models, not just for their peers, and not just in sports, but for all of us in every aspect of our lives.
Watch a CBS report on the story below: