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was created especially for
Troy Dan Draper
at the age of 7
With Love From,
Mom & Dad
February 13, 2002
Troy Draper rolled over in bed, saw dawn was already breaking and knew he would not be able to go back to sleep. He had tossed and turned most of the night because he was so excited. This restlessness, however, was also partly due to an aching calf muscle.
As Troy started to get up, he once again felt the tightening in his leg. He rubbed his muscle and the tension eased.
Now, fully awake, Troy was very aware of the half-queasy, half-exhilarated feeling that came before every important Football game. But today was not like every other sports day. Today, Troy Draper was competing in the last and most important Football game of the season. The championship was at stake!
While Troy was eating breakfast, dozens of thoughts filled his mind. He imagined his friends and family at the Football game standing and cheering for him. He could almost hear the announcer saying, “Troy Draper of Bronte, Texas, is simply spectacular today.”
Then his thoughts turned back to reality. Troy drank his orange juice and rubbed his leg. He knew it was time to leave when he saw Mike, Joe, and Randy outside the kitchen window.
The ride seemed unusually long this morning. When they finally reached their destination, Troy could see several people were already warming up. He rushed to join his teammates.
The announcement was made that it was time to begin. The Football game got off to a good start. Troy felt winning was possible. The team was in great condition.
It soon became apparent that the teams were evenly matched. First one, then the other, took the lead. With only minutes left, defeat or victory depended entirely on Troy. His early morning vision was coming true!
Then it happened! Suddenly the dull ache in his leg muscle became a terrible cramp. Troy tried to go on. Again the muscle knotted and the pain was fierce. There was no doubt about it, he could no longer compete.
The Football game ended. The championship was won by the opposing team.
As the group gathered around the van, Troy began to think of everything that had happened before the Football game. He remembered his leg aching during the night and how restless he had been. The excitement of the championship had pushed the pain out of his mind until the fierce cramp had become unbearable.
Troy also thought about his dream of being the hero of the day. This morning's dream of stardom seemed foolish. He felt discouraged.
Troy and the other began to pile into the van when they saw the coach approaching. One by one they took their seats.
Troy wondered what would be said and how Coach Sandusky would react. He wished he could disappear.
Coach Sandusky stopped to talk to some of the parents. Inside the van, there was total silence. No one spoke. Troy knew that everyone was upset. He was feeling very uneasy.
The coach got into the van. Troy continued staring at the floor. Coach Sandusky broke the long silence. “We all gave our best today. All of you on the team gave 100 percent. The cheers from the rest of you gave us a real boost. Troy, how's your leg?”
Troy looked up. The coach was wonderful!! This Football game had meant everything to the team, yet Coach Sandusky was more concerned with how Troy felt.
Coach Sandusky then told a hilarious story, and they all began to laugh and talk at once. With words and antics, they created an instant replay of the entire Football game. They made fun of themselves until they were weak with laughter. The tension between them ended, and their friendship became stronger.
By the time they arrived at their favorite pizza place, Troy felt good. The aroma of the food coming from the restaurant smelled fantastic. Troy had already decided on a medium cheese pizza and a large drink.
The restaurant was busy. Coaches, athletes and spectators came to eat and talk about the efforts of the teams.
As they were waiting to order, a team member joked, “Troy Draper, every time we compete, you get better and better. One of these days you might even get a professional offer.” They all patted Troy on the back. No one could lose with friends like these.
Coach Sandusky put an arm around Troy and hugged him. “Stack them up, team,” said the coach. The teammates piled one hand on top of the other. Troy felt so good that he forgot the dull ache in his leg.
Troy joined Mike, Joe, and Randy and his other friends who were sitting in a booth at the back of the restaurant. Troy was glad to see them. He had just begun to tell them about Coach Sandusky when he saw Kia.
Kia was a know-it-all who never missed a chance to put someone down. Anyone who had a bad day at any sports event was a sure target. Kia's outspoken meanness was well known in Bronte, Texas.
Troy felt his heart pounding rapidly. He struggled to catch his breath. Kia had seen Troy and was coming straight toward him. There was no place to hide.
Kia was definitely one of the few people who always came to criticize. Even adults often cringed at Kia's remarks. Troy could feel everyone looking at him.
“Well, Troy, how does it feel losing the biggest Football game of the year single-handedly?” Kia's voice boomed.
Everyone stopped eating. The entire restaurant was silent.
Mike, Joe, and Randy looked up. Troy was fighting to keep control of his emotions. All his earlier feelings of disappointment came flooding back. What could he say?
Only a few minutes passed, but to Troy it seemed like forever. He tried to speak, but no words would come.
Coach Sandusky slowly got up from the table and walked over to Kia. “If I remember correctly, Kia,” said the coach, “your poor sportsmanship caused the penalty which lost us the championship last year. It was Troy who stick up for you and Troy who sat with you in this same restaurant when no one else would. How can you criticize the one person who has treated you like a friend?”
Kia started to answer, but seeing the look on the coach's face, knew it was best to keep quiet.
Kia, speechless, was a sight to behold. A sigh of relief spread throughout the entire restaurant.
As they left the pizza place, everyone began buzzing with conversation. Mike, Joe, and Randy recalled times when they needed it. Troy always seemed to be there with a word of encouragement. Each one agreed that today's loss was not the end of the world.
Win or lose, they knew that they could always count on Troy Draper for friendship and support. Everyone was really glad Troy was on their team.
The awards banquet was held a few weeks later. Parents, friends, and relatives brought their favorite dishes. Chicken, lasagna, potato salad, green beans, casseroles, garden salads, and every dessert imaginable filled the tables. The food was always delicious at these gatherings.
The team got together and talked about many things. One topic was the surprise plaque for Coach Sandusky which they had all chipped in to buy. Troy was pleased about this gift. It was a super way to say thank you to a special coach.
Most of the conversation, however, was about the Sportsmanship Trophy. This was the most-coveted award of all. Each athlete imagined how that trophy would look on a shelf at home.
The sportsmanship award was voted on by the team. Each member was entitled to one vote.
Several days before the banquet, Coach Sandusky had explained to the group the qualifications for this trophy. According to Coach Sandusky, three qualities were needed. The athlete had to show good team spirit, play by the rules of the sport and be gracious in victory or defeat. The coach had added that, although the trophy was not given specifically for athletic ability, a good athlete could win.
The ballots were cast at the banquet. There were many who qualified this year, and the vote was sure to be close.
The banquet room was very festive. Balloons, bright paper streamers, laughter and conversation all added to the excitement.
Coach Sandusky stood to begin the presentations, and the team quickly took their seats. Troy sat next to Mike, Joe, and Randy. In spite of the fact they were excited, a hush came over the room.
“We have had a great season,” said Coach Sandusky. “We've learned about teamwork, winning and losing. We have learned the discipline of weekly practices, but most importantly we've learned about friendship and sportsmanship.”.
One by one, the team members were called up to receive their participation trophy. Coach Sandusky spoke of the special talent of each athlete as the awards were presented. These remarks meant a lot to the team. They listened carefully to the words of the coach.
As the last of the trophies were given out, the anticipation began to grow. Finally, only the large, shiny, gold Sportsmanship Trophy remained on the table. Everyone held their breath. The coach continued, “The vote was close this year. In fact, the trophy was won by only one vote. Troy Draper, your teammates have voted that this award go to you.”
Unknown to everyone, Kia had cast the tie-breaking vote.
The team had not won the championship, but they had learned many important lessons. They knew it was difficult to lose, but as long as they kept trying, they could not be defeated. Good sportsmanship now had real meaning. Winning was not everything. Their spirits had never been higher. Troy beamed with pride as the team gathered around him. Groups of friends excitedly talked about the fantastic team they would have next year. Troy Draper was eagerly looking forward to another season.
for Troy Draper