“Kids need sports.” That’s the message from the fifteen exceptional high school students who have been selected by Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) as Finalists for its Triple-Impact Competitor® Scholarship program. PCA’s 2020 Finalists have demonstrated that what they have learned playing sports, applies in the classroom and in life, and is helping them get through the pandemic and the challenges they face every day.
As a national nonprofit dedicated to helping do sports right so that young people build the character, leadership, grit, resilience, and compassion they need to thrive today, every year we recognize recognize high school seniors who do sports right through our Triple-Impact Competitor® Scholarship program. These are high school seniors whose applications and references from coaches, teachers, and teammates demonstrate that they do sports right, making themselves, their teammates, and the game better. Believing in the principle that “what gets rewarded gets repeated,” PCA honors this group of young people, and shares their experiences in their communities and throughout New England.
On Monday, October, 5, PCA is hosting a special Zoom meeting to honor its fifteen Finalists and to give them the opportunity to connect and share experiences with one another plus PCA Board Members. Later this fall, PCA will select four scholarship winners.
The word from PCA’s 2020 Finalists is that sports have taught them so much and sports are helping them stay connected and healthy, mentally and physically. Read their stories, and you will be impressed and inspired. Here is some of what we learned about our Finalists from their applications, interviews, and references.
Megan Allen, a senior at Needham High School in Needham, Massachusetts, plays volleyball and says that playing sports has taught her “personal discipline” in her training, intentions, and mental game. Described as tenacious, determined, a role model, leader, and “someone I would want to lead my team,” by her math teacher, Megan has the support of her coach and teammates because of her relentless positivity and work ethic. During the pandemic Megan has supported her teammates and held them accountable for off season workouts. Megan is an essential part of the “selfless community” that fueled the 2019-20 state championship team alongside her teammate Karen Nie who is also a Finalist. Megan’s coach, Courtney Chaloff describes her as “the exact type of student-athlete a coach would hope to have on their team.”
Charis Banez, a senior at Bristol-Plymouth Regional High School in Taunton, Massachusetts, plays soccer and is a track and field athlete from Raynham who says playing sports have taught her “to persevere, and to enjoy the moment.” Charis’ coaches and teachers praise her for “leadership skills beyond her years.” Charis combines her passion and drive to succeed with a commitment to caring that Soccer Coach Elizabeth Travis describes as “evident with every interaction on and off the soccer field.” A true team player, Charis is gracious, respectful and positive with a passion for community service and playing the game the right way.
Breanna Benoit of Salem, Massachusetts, a senior at Bishop Fenwick High School in Peabody, Massachusetts, is a track and field athlete, who dances competitively, has competed in volleyball and cheerleading, and credits playing sports with teaching her determination. Breanna and her track coach, Jocelyn Almy-Testa, both shared the remarkable story of Breanna’s commitment to achieve her goals, how she set her sights on becoming the meet MVP and achieved her goal a year later through a combination of persistence, drive, and dedication. Not only does Breanna strive for personal excellence, her teammates report how she fuels their performance with positivity and is gracious in victory and in defeat, congratulating teammates and opponents alike.
Emilia Ferretti of Lincoln, Rhode Island, a senior at Blackstone Valley Prep High School in Cumberland, Rhode Island, is a gymnast whose multiple injuries and commitment to mastery helped her appreciate her sport, and emerge stronger, more passionate, and more compassionate. She has responded to the pandemic by supporting those around her, Coach Isaiah Burgess says Emilia “exudes confidence with a humble heart.”
Morgan Fusco of Sebago, Maine, a senior at Fryeburg Academy in Fryeburg, Maine plays soccer and softball, as a goalkeeper and a catcher, who strives to be a “kind leader.” Morgan’s response to the pandemic was to keep her team connected, taking the lead to design team t-shirts that say RADIATE POSITIVITY and #togetherapart. Morgan believes that sports are more than just games we play, she says “sports are a way that kids and adults, including myself, express themselves, their character, and values in life.” Morgan values officials and treats them respectfully. She has been instrumental in developing a positive team culture, inspiring her teammates with her work ethic and encouragement. Morgan’s soccer coach Antonio Barrionuevo describes her as that athlete who is “every coach’s dream.”
Erin Leone of Hanover, Massachusetts, a senior at Notre Dame Academy in Hingham, Massachusetts, is a swimmer, track and field athlete, who has also played soccer and became a referee. Erin is credited with “inspiring her teammates to greatness.” Her track coach, Richard Kates, shared that Erin brings “a love and passion to the sport, learning everything there is to know, and is willing to take risks, probably one of the most coachable student athletes I have ever had in 33 years of coaching.”
Amelia Mignacca of Seekonk, Massachusetts, a senior at Bishop Feehan High School in Attleboro, Massachusetts, is a cross-country and track and field athlete, who competes with a “never say never” attitude. Her track coach, Bob L’Homme, says Amelia is “one of the most positive teammates one could have. During all practices and cross country and track meets she is constantly encouraging her teammates. She is humble and always puts the team first.”
Madison Miller, a senior at Newport Middle/High School in Newport, New Hampshire, is a multi-sport athlete competing in field hockey, basketball, and track and field, and she also participates in Unified Basketball. Maddie says “sports has helped me build character, it has helped me be the best person I can be even when no one is watching.” People are usually watching, and her references made clear that she not only shines as an athlete but as a person. Her history teacher, Dominick King, says “the true beauty of her character is shown with the Unified Basketball Team . . . . Maddie’s friendship and leadership are as genuine as it comes and is not bound by the walls of the basketball court. Her unified teammates are her friends and she integrates these friends into her other social groups. The joy and pride I see on their faces when Maddie joins them at lunch is quite heart-warming. On the court, Maddie’s enthusiasm for unified basketball is only matched by the overwhelming joy of her teammates. I do not think there is a better proof of Maddie honoring the game than the evident burst of self-esteem reflected by her unified teammates.”
Karen Nie, a senior at Needham High School in Needham, Massachusetts, has been recognized as one of the top volleyball players in her state. Now, thanks to the compelling references submitted by her teammates, coach, and others, PCA is recognizing Karen for her gracious, caring leadership, and for being an essential part of the “selfless community” that defined her 2019-20 state championship team. She has stayed the course through the pandemic continuing to work out and to lead her team. Humble, composed, and with a strong, positive mental game, Karen values sportsmanship. In her application she shared that she thanks the officials after every match because of a moment that has stayed with her—a moment when her team’s fans taunted an official over a call they disagreed with, and she asked them to stop. That moment resonated with her, because while she appreciates the energy and enthusiasm fans bring to a game, she knows how it feels to be the subject of taunts from fans.
Matthew Pittsley, a senior at Bristol-Plymouth Regional High School in Taunton, Massachusetts, is a soccer player from Middleboro who earns high praise from Coach Michael Oliveira because he is coachable, does all the little things needed to support the team, and plays the right way. A caring, encouraging, hard-working teammate, Matt also earns the praise of teammates, one of whom says he “is one of the most positive and determined teammates that I have ever had. If there were a team full of players that matched Matt’s attitude then they would never lose a game.
Lily Ramsdell, a senior at Ipswich High School in Ipswich, Massachusetts, is a gymnast who has spent the pandemic working to improve herself, and others, connecting with teammates via Zoom and filming demonstrations for younger gymnasts. Lily says “all gymnasts are part of a community,” and supports not only her teammates, but gymnasts from competing teams. Kind and compassionate with a contagious smile, her coaches say Lily makes a positive impact on everyone around her.
James Sanborn, a senior at Lyndon Institute in Lyndon Center, Vermont, plays baseball, basketball and volleyball and has earned the appreciation and respect of his coaches and teammates as an inspiring, empowering leader who makes a positive impact on those around him. Basketball Coach Patrick Rainville says “James has inspired me to be a better coach and be a more poised leader during game situations. He is the most influential player I have coached.” One of his teammates relates the story of how James inspired his team through a heated battle with a rival, and how, after a heart-breaking loss to a rival, James, just a junior, was the one player who was able to lift his teammates up literally off the floor and to be better people. James himself says that through sports he learned not to seek perfection but to develop a positive mindset and have fun playing the game with his teammates.
Ghay Soe, a senior at Lynn English High School in Lynn, Massachusetts, is a cross-country and track and field athlete, who also enjoys winter sports. Running has taught Gay that he can do whatever he sets his mind to do, and has helped him connect with others. As an immigrant from a refugee camp in Thailand, Gay found that running helped him deal with the challenges and stress of learning to speak and take classes in English and “living in two worlds.” There are no fall sports in Lynn this year, but Gay is still able to run and as a team captain to encourage his teammates to keep running. Hard-working and determined, Gay’s focus is to stay positive for his teammates, and to help them keep going.
Lydia Stein, a senior at Portland High School in Portland, Maine, is a soccer, basketball, and lacrosse player and a positive leader who consistently displays excellent sportsmanship. During COVID, Lydia has undertaken extra coursework on leadership. Her soccer coach, Curtis Chapin, praises her ideas and ability to communicate, saying they have helped elevate the team and that he is “a better coach because of her. I have had some exceptional players but she is one of the best at communication and doing what is best for everyone on our team.” Lydia’s favorite sports moment came not from a moment of personal glory, but when her younger sister made the varsity team.
Zachary Yeaton, a senior at Portsmouth High School in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, competes in cross-country, has played and umpired baseball, and participates in Unified Basketball. Zach says that sports have helped shape who is a person, and helped him appreciate how important teammates are to enjoying sports. Zach’s coaches appreciate him as a hard worker who does the right thing, and for being the all-important “glue guy.” Zach gives back. As a volunteer Little League umpire, Zach has taken on what is one of the most difficult jobs in sports, and performed calmly and confidently, earning respect. Participating in Unified Basketball helps Zach appreciate the joy of sports, for all of us.