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Originally written October 23, 2013 on The Victory Formation:

via The Victory Formation:

There are times when we question why we allow ourselves to care so much about sports. As I’ve grown older, the ignorance of it ‘being just a game’ is gone. It is a business, and it tends to muck it up at times. Additionally, we read about people like the parent in Texas who doesn’t understand the difference between their son being bullied and just being on a terrible team. It is just things like as such that make me want to stop paying so much attention. Then I read and see things like what took place in Wisconsin that reel me back and remind me how great sports can be.

Noah VanVooren, born with Down syndrome, has been the Little Chute High School football team manager the last four years. He is as much of the program as anyone that wears a uniform, and he was rewarded for his dedication to them by suiting up for a game, and having the opportunity to put an exclamation point on the team’s playoff-clinching victory with 1.2 seconds remaining:

As the crowd chanted, “Noah! Noah!” VanVooren jogged onto the field and lined up alongside quarterback Sam Merryfield.

VanVooren took the handoff from Merryfield and ran around right end 35 yards into the end zone, spiking the football before his teammates swarmed him.

Here is video of the action:

Following the game, Noah reminded his teammates to be ready for practice on Monday, telling them not to be late. He also led them in the school’s fight song. While it was awesome to see Little Chute work Noah into the game, more credit should be given to their opponents from Clintonville. Already being blown out 55-0, they allowed Noah to have his moment, “chasing him” as he scored. That is a sign of respect and class that cannot be measured. Yeah, sports can sometimes be messy, but this is why it can be amazing.

15 Comments:
  • I have a child with mosaic Down syndrome. He has a big brother that plays football and lacrosse. It would be a beautiful opportunity, if my son could have the experience that this young man had the courage and strength to do! What a wonderful community!
  • Hats off to The Little Chute Coaches and Players and most importantly to the entire Clintonville Program. This was a very classy and moving experience and it is one that everyone will hopefully learn from. Keep fighting Noah you are an inspiration. To the Head Coach at Clintonville....You really get it and thank god you are coaching young men. You have taught them a valuable lesson.
  • Just what ARE the duties of a football team "manager"? I've always felt that term was SO inflated. Someone keeps the equipment organized, and they're called "manager"? What an ego boost, I guest, but it's also patronizing. They handle smelly sweaty equipment for the most part. What else do they "manage" ? The players? The strategies? The workout programs? Let's do away with such a condescending term. I'm sure many with DS realize the patronizing nature of "manager." Seems like a lot of "managers" of football teams have DS or similar. Stop the condescension with "manager" already.
  • The football "manager" duties are to help the coaches with keeping things in order throughout the season. There are no "duties". They change on a daily basis. There is nothing condescending about the term manager. My daughter has been a "manager" for her 4 years in HS. She does not have DS, but she is a little more compassionate than you are along with being a better speller, hence your word GUEST instead of guess or guessed. But hey, I guess "normal" people have a right to belittle anyone they want.
  • PATTAP - You can't seriously be this idiotic? Are people really capable of such idiocy?
  • Unless you have a child with a disability, you might not be able to recognize the importance of feeling a part of something "bigger" than oneself. This type of opportunity, allows children to feel part of a group and a community. I have a child with a disability..ds and feel that what this community did, and the opposing team, was truly sportsman like conduct...not condescending in any facet! I also have been a teacher and coach for over twenty years. Their intentions are truly inspiring.
  • Both of these teams won something greater than any victory could ever yield! Thank you gentlemen for showing us what is more important than the sport itself. You are my heroes!
    I am a fan through and through!
  • WOW! What can you say? What an amazing opportunity both teams gave this young man. It really makes me grateful for these two head coaches who instill such a positive influence on the boys in their programs (and community) . Couldn't have been easy for the losing squad to be that gracious, but they are all winners for having been a part of this.
  • Am I the only one who immediately thought Quasimodo?
  • My younger brother in law has a learning disability, but he never let that stop him from realizing some pretty great things. He joined a volunteer fire brigade, and they call him a fireman. He usually cleans around the firehouse and helps maintain equipment as he is able, and he never goes out on calls, but they call him a fireman anyhow. Condescending? I think not. He gets a real kick out of it, and the real firemen get a great feeling by helping out someone who has the guts and drive, but maybe not the ability, to be a fireman. Until you see the joy on the face of the kid who gets to be called Team Manager or Fireman, even though "all" they really do is wash trucks or serve Gatorade, you don't understand how powerful a healing thing that can be.
  • It's good to some positive news out there. There is so much news regarding teens poor behavior but we all know there are good kids everywhere and we more news like this. Everyone benefits from things like this.
  • That's called cheating!
  • Well, just to play devil's advocate, would anyone on the other team even try to tackle him? Who wants to be known as the kid who tackled someone with Down syndrome? These days, they let anyone and everyone play football. It used to be a serious sport that taught kids discipline and the importance of practicing to get better and good enough for the team. Now, it's "Everyone gets to play equally and no one works hard to be any good."
  • I enjoy seeing stories like this. It's good to know there are boys out there that know how to be men. Both teams are to be congratulated for not only their display of sportsmanship, but for being men who aren’t afraid of being compassionate.
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