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Little League Baseball and Softball
Boy with Challenges Finds Fun in Competition
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Gannett News Service

December 30, 2008 Tuesday


Hey, why is that guy wearing those red, white and blue goggles raising his arms in celebration? He didn't win the race. He didn't even place in the top three. As a matter of fact, he came in seventh place out of eight swimmers.

It's because Nick Standerfer gets it. He loves to compete. Actually, he loves to give it his all and to have fun. Believe it or not, he even likes to go to practice. He loves to make friends. He loves to listen to his coaches and do all that they ask of him. He doesn't complain. He doesn't even mind wearing those goofy Speedo bathing suits.

"He is so glad to participate and is thrilled to finish," said his mom, Pam.

It's because his two coaches get it. Nick swims on the St. Mary's High School swim team in Phoenix. Coach Williams and Coach Sanchez just want him to have fun, make lots of friends and become a better swimmer. They want him to learn the character values of working hard, staying committed, setting goals and striving to reach them, and the importance of developing relationships.

It's because Nick watched the Summer Olympics and was encouraged and motivated by USA swimmer Michael Phelps. I guess now I get the red, white and blue goggles. He told me that he even wants to beat Michael Phelps in a race.

It's because he wants to be treated like everyone else. He doesn't want, nor does he expect, special privileges.

It's because he knows how to balance being on a team and the value of family. He loves hanging out with his brothers. There is nothing that could take the place of his family. That is his priority. That's not to say there's not sibling rivalry, as he does claim to swim faster than his brother and fellow teammate, JoJo.

It's because he is self-driven. This isn't his parents' deal, it's his. He is the one who wants to be on the team and work hard and participate in all the practices. He doesn't need to be pushed and/or bribed to stay committed.

It's because he doesn't have that false hope that a college scholarship is his for the taking. "Fun" is his motivation, not the pursuit of a scholarship.

It's because he has become a friend to all his teammates. They love having Nick on their team.

It's because "I listen to my coaches," Nick told me.

It's because he has had youth coaches early on who were great role models and understood the definition of success.

Oh, did I mention that Nick has Down syndrome? Way to go Nick! Way to be an example to all of us. Way to live out the true meaning and value of youth sports.

I'll be there cheering you on in your race against Michael Phelps!
If you have questions or comments for Tom Kuyper, e-mail him at


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