“Being an athlete isn’t just about playing the game, it is about walking the walk…..being a good student, and giving back,” said Kelly O’Donnell. Her comments were made with reference to what she believed the Edge program was all about and how her son, John O’Donnel lived by those standards. John, who has been a member of the 13u team for the past two seasons, submitted an essay that he wrote into an essay contest sponsored by the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) a few months back. Not only did he win the award for Ulster County, but he was also selected as the winner for the entire Archdiocese. He was awarded a trophy and a savings bond at a dinner at the Catholic Center in Manhattan. His photo also appeared in a recent issue of Catholic New York.
The essay contest required applicants to write about “something difficult in your life that your faith helped you to overcome.” Accordingly, John wrote about how he was diagnosed with a learning disability several years back and how difficult it was for him to deal with it. His essay centered around how he looked to his faith and prayer to help him through the years.
During those years, John also discovered something else about himself…..that he was pretty good in sports. In addition to basketball, John runs track and plays baseball, excelling in all three. Playing three sports, however, requires perseverance, commitment, and time management. John wrote how perseverance in sports helped him in the classroom and to ultimately overcome his disability. Today, John is one of the top student-athletes in his class, sporting an amazing 99.3 GPA. He has been on the high honor roll every semester since starting middle school.
Jim Santoro, the Director of Edge Athletics is not surprised. “He was selected to play on this team as direct result of the work ethic and determination he demonstrated during tryouts last year,” Santoro said. “Each team member brought with them a special unique quality that has defined them as a whole,” he added.
Edge Athletics promotes three fundamental objectives…..respect, skill development, and work ethic. Winning takes a backseat. “Although winning is important, we feel that the athletes development as players, student-athletes, and as people should come first. The winning part will take care of itself,” Santoro said. Well the winning part has certainly done just that as John’s team compiled a two year record of 57-8.
John keeps all of that in the right perspective. “He prays before every game… but he never prays to win… he just prays to not get hurt and to use the gifts that God gave him to the best of his ability, “ said Mrs. O’Donnell. Those feelings were clearly reflected in his essay which not only won him the award but also caught the eye of Alec McCauley, the Director of CYO for New York. McCauley thought it was such an amazing essay, representing exactly what CYO was all about, that he invited John down to NY to read his essay at the 74th CYO Club of Champions Tribute at the USS Intrepid. This year’s honorees were Roger Staubach, Eli Manning (who couldn’t be there, but was there via video feed) and Christopher Gallagher. Greg Kelly from Good Day New York (Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s son) was the MC. “It was an amazing evening… Johnny was treated like a celebrity… being escorted in to the VIP room for interviews and photos, spending time with Roger Staubach and Greg Kelly,” said a very proud Mrs. O’Donnell. And very proud she should be as her son John opened the evening by reading his essay to an audience that gave him a standing ovation at the conclusion.