I like to write, shoot it is my 2nd job at ZDNet, and if you ask family and friends I can generally express myself better with the written word. I have a lot of thoughts spinning in my head as we reach the end of the high school basketball season and find I can clear things if I put them down in “ink”.
You may have read the title above and thought that I was going to talk about Michael Jordan (he just turned 50 BTW), Carl Lewis, Jim Thorpe, Joe Montana, or some other current or former athlete. They were all fantastic athletes, but my personal favorite is Maloree Amanda Miller.
I played 10 years of football (including four in college), 10+ years of rugby, and many other sports over my 44 years and I have seen a lot of athletes. There are many things that can make an athlete great, but in my opinion it goes way beyond athletic ability and that is what Mal has in her.
Mal has been blessed with natural athletic ability and a competitive nature that drives her desire to compete. She is not the biggest athlete, but has speed, strength, and a nearly neverending endurance to go the distance. She is the most coachable athlete anyone can be blessed with on her team as she ALWAYS listens intently to the coach (watch her in a timeout or on the sidelines) and then carries out those assignments like a good soldier following the general’s orders. She never shows ANY disrespect to coaches, her teammates, the fans, or even the opposition. You will see athletes get fired up and then get nasty, but no matter what the opponent does to Mal she gets right back up and takes care of business without letting the other team in her head.
I too am competitive and sometimes am driven mad by coaches and refs, but Mal just smiles and rolls on. I wish I had her patience, love, and complete forgiveness and am blessed she has an influence on me.
Mal is the most unselfish player you will find and teammates are blessed to have her on their teams. She prefers to pass the soccer ball and basketball rather than take the shot (sometimes to my sheer frustration) to give the credit to her teammates. She watches opponents like a hawk and steals the ball like a fox and then dishes it off to teammates to score. I would love to see her current stats, but swear Mal is in on more rebounds than anyone as she always follows shots on the basket or soccer goal and knows where the ball is going to be.
My only advice to her is to speak up a bit more and try to funnel this behavior into verbal encouragement to help make her team better too. You will not see or hear Mal boasting of her stats or giving herself any credit, even if she clearly deserves it. She is the epitome of the team player and my prayer for her is that a college sees this and rewards Mal with the opportunity to play at the college level.
Mal has also been blessed with the ability to recover quickly from injuries. You won’t see Mal come out of a game or practice unless its serious and over the last couple of years I have seen her make some miraculous recoveries when I know others would be down and out on the bench. She is truly an inspiration for young athletes and girls looking to play sports and succeed in life.
She is also not affected by the moment and shoots free throws as calmly at the end of the game when a win is on the line as she does early in a game where they are blowing someone out. She just recently made two straight free throws to win a playoff game and looked as cool as ice at the free throw line. She doesn’t get stressed on the field or court, which is awesome since a coach can count on her to keep her head in the game and get the job done in any situation.
I improved beyond my imagination when I played football and rugby in college with coaches that were specialists in their trade and focused on a small number of athletes in their care. I look forward to seeing Mal take it to the next level in college and watching her grow and develop as a player and a person.
Jesus has blessed Mal with athletic ability and an unselfish heart and she has modeled her behavior after Him, even in the highly competitive world of sports. I pray that He continues to bless her, protect her, and provide her with the opportunity to enjoy sports all of her life. Come on out and watch my favorite athlete on the field or the court, you will be happy you shared in the experience.