To The Editor:
Indiana University has been blessed with several national champions throughout the years. Their basketball team has won five national titles and their soccer team now has won eight.
Fortunately, I watched many of this year’s IU men’s soccer games and saw my nephew, Matt McKain, play. Matt (known as “Matty,” No. 5, in the soccer world) played every second of each tournament game. They won their last three games 1-0.
Until this year, a No. 16 seed had never won a soccer national championship. Adversity was prevalent this season. The team only won one of their last four regular-season games and barely got into the tournament. Also, this was the first year they lost a first-round game in the Big Ten Tournament. And they hadn’t been to the College Cup since 2004.
Despite this, Coach Jerry Yeagley encouraged them to “play together as a team” and they did throughout the tournament. Their motto: QUEST FOR 8 (their 8th star or championship). The last two years they were knocked out by teams that became national champions. They felt this was their year.
There are many lessons to be learned from this team. Success isn’t an overnight event. You will face trials along the way. These athletes have had to pay the price throughout their young lives. They’ve had to practice numerous hours. They’ve had to travel throughout the states and for some the world. They’ve faced other good athletes over the years who wanted the prize just as bad. They’ve all had their share of injuries, but they’ve persevered. Jacob Bushue is having knee surgery as we speak, but he played despite the pain.
Another lesson: success is a team sport. LeBron James said, “I am successful because others believed in me.” Teachers, coaches, family and friends: You do make a difference.
Among the sacrifices made by family: hotel, restaurant, and transportation expenses; but their support means a lot to the athletes. Coach Yeagley publicly recognizes the parents each season by introducing them. He gives credit where it is due.
I teach and coach young people occasionally. I believe young people should follow their dreams. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to have a backup plan. If Matt can’t play professionally, he will have a business degree to support him. Scholarships have helped him immensely.
When I nominated a fraternity brother of mine as fraternity president, little did I know that he, Mike Pence, would become governor. When a young man came to our house as a Seymour High School student, little did I know he, John Mellencamp, would be a rock-n-roll hall of famer. When I watched a young lady shine on the SHS stage, little did I know she, Katie Stam, would be crowned Miss America. And sitting across from me at a pizza joint two months ago, little did I know Matt’s best friend, Nokita Kotlov, would hit the national title game winning shot heard ‘round the country. Dreams can come true.
Never have IU’s soccer and basketball teams won national titles in the same school year. Tom Crean wants to change that. His team will experience bumps and bruises; six Big Ten teams are ranked. If their basketball team continues to improve and they play together as a team, I believe they can win No. 6.
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