Donna Noonan

Character counts in the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award

by Donna Noonan February 21, 2011 in Women's Basketball

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Every year there are countless awards recognizing outstanding achievement on the playing field, as well as in the classroom.  And while those are two very important aspects of being a student-athlete, they do not tell the whole story.  One of the things I love about the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award is that it not only takes into account what a person does, it also considers who they are.  Character is one of the four Cs of excellence considered by the award and in my experience it is the hardest to quantify and evaluate. I think John Wooden put it best when he said “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

It is from the heart that true motives flow. Our culture is consumed by the external, but character is a heart issue and is more accurately revealed in times of difficulty.  You do not know what kind of juice is in the fruit until you squeeze it!  One of joys of being part of the advisory panel for the Senior CLASS Award is reading the stories of the student-athletes.  They are all great students and accomplished athletes, but the examples of those who have demonstrated the ability to overcome adversity or who sacrifice for the benefit of another person are the ones that truly inspire.  I’ve read accounts of athletes who have overcome serious injuries and illnesses like cancer.  Individuals who have broken the cycle of poverty or family dysfunction.  Others who willingly sacrifice their vacation time to go overseas and serve people far less fortunate than themselves.  These are great stories and they are to be celebrated.

My faith and my family have been the primary shapers of my character development, but sports have clearly been the third most powerful force in my life.  Coaches have been a big part of that, but I would say that sports have taught me more about how to respond to mistakes and failure than anything else I have ever done. Teaching young people that while failure is never the desired outcome, how we respond to it is critical to becoming healthy and successful people.  If we can help them learn to admit it, fix it and not repeat it it, we will go a long way to helping them become the people they were created to be. 

Yes character counts. Even NFL teams are taking character into consideration in the selection of draft picks.  Team chemistry is too fragile and the financial stakes are too high for teams to take chances on high draft picks who have character issues.  I am so glad that the creators of the Senior CLASS Award count character in the selection process.  It is great to be able to honor students who are not only great athletes, but also people who do it the right way, with the right heart, and in the right time.  We all need people to encourage and inspire us.  Congratulations to all of the nominees and award winners for showing us what is possible.