Chuck’s Sports Ethics Hero Award: Lauren Hill

It would not be a major assumption on my part to say that chances are you have never heard of Division III, Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, Ohio. I personally love Division III sports because there is still a strong core of student athletes who play sports for all of the right reasons.

Lauren HillWhile every so often, an outstanding athlete emerges from D-III ranks to become a professional standout (Fred Jackson of the Buffalo Bills comes to mind), most of the athletes go on to all kinds of careers having little to do with sports.

However, that doesn’t mean that D-III is incapable of producing champions on a level all of their own.

I have just been “introduced” to Lauren Hill through an Associated Press article by Joe Kay entitled: “College player with brain tumor ready to play.”

Division III teams are not exactly followed by major media outlets and in fact (depending on the sport, of course), they have trouble putting enough people in the seats. This year, the opening game for the Lions is sold out and I suspect they will continue to be sold out as long as No. 22, Lauren Hill, takes to the floor. I pray the sell out’s will continue for many years to come, but we are dealing with a formidable foe here.

Lauren Hill has inoperable brain cancer. It has already robbed her of her energy, coordination and her right handed shot.

Yet despite her challenge, she is not letting the cancer define her. She shows up for practices no matter how badly she is feeling and she will not allow the cancer to define her.

“I’m spreading awareness and also teaching people how to live in the moment because the next moment’s not promised. Anything can happen at any given moment. What matters is right now.”

The Opening Game

The NCAA is sharply critiqued and criticized for most everything they do, but in the case of Lauren Hill they have made an exception:

“The NCAA made a special exception to move up Mount St. Joseph’s opener against Hiram College to Nov. 2, despite its rules that require seasons to start later in November. The scheduling change gives Hill a better shot to get on the court — the only chance she may get before the growing tumor that hinders her play also claims her life.”

That is correct, and let’s not sugar-coat it. Lauren’s life on this earth is limited, but this courageous 19 year old refuses to give in until she can no longer play or even sit on the bench.

When the NCAA ruled in favor of moving the schedule up earlier, Xavier University has given over their 10,000-seat arena. It has sold out!

Why is the world of basketball rushing to elevate this young woman? It is her incredible attitude. She is surrounded by love and she gives it back.

“College basketball players and sports teams from around the country are signing No. 22 jerseys and sending them to Lauren for support. The United States Basketball Writers Association has voted her for the Pat Summitt most courageous award, which is usually given out at the Final Four.”

When she could no longer shoot right-handed, she learned how to shoot left handed; when the dizziness became bad, she changed the way she moved on the court. Still, she does not miss practices or team meetings.

Despite her own prognosis, she has become an outspoken ambassador for pediatric cancer research, raising money and awareness. She is fearful of the future to be sure, but she is living each day with pride and dignity and purpose.

I am sure she gets some of her strength from her mother, Lisa Hill:

“You try not to concentrate on it too much because you can get caught up in the grief of the sheer fact that you’re probably going to lose your child, but if I grieve and get depressed and curl up into a ball, I rob myself and her of today. Why?”

Both mother and daughter realize that all we have is today. It is a deeply ethical message that I try to instill in the people I counsel. What we do today matters. If we make a bad decision off the field or court today, it may come back to haunt us years down the road.

No one knows how much time is left for Lauren Hill, but it is clear that this courageous 19 year-old is teaching us older folks how we should live our lives.

We award Lauren Hill Chuck’s Sports Ethics Hero Award. In this era of self-centeredness, self-indulgence and greed, we can never forget that there are still incredibly fine people in sports and Lauren is a fine example. I am so happy to have found her story.

My only wish, other than the obvious, is that they could have found her an even bigger arena.

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