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Everyone is a role model whether it’s good or bad

August 9, 2010

Everyone is a role model, good or bad.

High school athletes need to understand that there are a lot of kids who look up to them, whether it is their little brother or sister, someone at the local elementary or junior high schools or some freshman who is overwhelmed at being in high school.

You make a difference.

That is evident daily, whether we adults here about it or not.

Do you want your child to be Tony Dungy or Tiger Woods; Cal Ripken Jr. or Barry Bonds; Walter Payton or Pacman Jones; Payton Manning or Eliot Spitzer; Liz Repella or Lindsay Lohan; David Robinson or Shawn Kemp; A.C. Green or Antonio Cromartie; Sylvia Crawley or Britney Spears; Tim Tebow or Ryan Leaf?

Former Steubenville Big Red and current West Virginia University women's basketball standout Liz Repella was in town Thursday to talk to the participants of the two Franciscan University of Steubenville basketball camps.

She talked to boys and girls ages 9-14 about hard work in the classroom, in the weightroom and as a teammate.

She told the kids that when a coach says to do something, you do it - like it or not. She told the campers that their job as a player on a team is to do what is instructed by the coaches. They don't have to like it, they just have to do it.

Of course, it makes things a lot easier if a good attitude marries with hard work.

Well, camp coordinator Kelly Herrmann put Liz on the spot and she played one-on-one against two of the older campers.

Mind you, Repella woke up at 6 a.m., worked out and drove to FUS.

She had not stretched or shot any basketballs when Herrmann surprised her by asking her to the court.

Herrmann then told the rest of the kids and adults gathered what Repella had done that morning to get to Steubenville.

Repella looked at Herrmann while dribbling and simply said, "No excuses."

No excuses.

I have never heard her make an excuse about anything.

She boasts a 3.98 GPA in exercise physiology and was one of six student-athletes nationally to be named an ESPN the Magazine First Team Academic All-American, the others being Connecticut's Maya Moore, Julia Hirssig of Wisconsin-Stout, Kelsey Luna of Indiana State, junior Erin Anthony of West Point and junior Angie Bjorklund of Tennessee.

Repella is a five-time WVU Athletic Director's Academic Honor Roll member, two-time Big East Academic All-Star and three-time WVU President's List honoree.

A five-time dean's list recipient, Repella garnered the 2009 Big East Scholar-Athlete Sport Excellence award for women's basketball and is a two-time academic all-district II first team honoree.

You want a role model for your child, look no further than Liz.

No excuses.

She worked out with the football team in the weightroom at Big Red and continues to put everything she has into everything she does.

Watch her play.

She plays harder on defense than she does on offense.

She does not take a play off.

She does not rest on her laurels.

She gets after it - basketball or classroom.

I know she is not the only 22-year-old who is a great role model.

But, she is a great place to start.

Almost a year ago Billy Mason turned 16. Billy is not your typical teenager in some ways, but is in many more.

The Steubenville High School student had a buddy in former Big Red standout Branko Busick. But, Branko is now at WVU and Jesse Birden has taken Branko's place.

Birden and former Big Red quarterback Dwight Macon spent the day with Billy when he turned 16. There were no television crews or photographers there, just some teenagers hanging out together.

"This may not be the way teenage boys would want to spend their Sunday afternoon, but that is exactly what Jesse and Dwight did," said Billy's father, Bill Mason. "These young men were so kind, mannerly, and very polite to everyone there. Not only did they take time with Billy for pictures, they helped him blow out his candles, played around with him and the other family members and, of course, watched football with the adults."

Brooke senior Ryan Lazear is getting prepared for his final high school football season.

His biggest fan is 13-year-old Matteo Filippelli, who was born with a rare chromosome disorder called "Chromosome 2 partial deletion," which creates speech and cognitive delays, preventing him from playing football.

He will be the waterboy for the Wellsburg Colts football team for the fifth year.

That's where he met Lazear.

And, now Brooke's No. 31 has chosen mentoring Matt as his senior honors project.

"This young man and a team looked beyond Matt's disabilities to find a common connection, sports," Matt's mother, Carla Jacobs wrote in a letter to the editor that was published a week ago. "Because of that compassion and acceptance, Matt's family will implement an annual award to be given to a Colt football player beginning this year.

"The "T.E.A.M." award (Teach Everyone About Matty) will be given to a member of the team that shows the true meaning of sportsmanship, leadership and acceptance, to someone who looks beyond someone's abilities to their heart."

In addition, Lazear was one of 1,635 Ohio Valley Athletic Conference athletes who were honored academically, owning a GPA of 3.8 or higher.

Former NBA player A.C. Green married Veronique Green on April 20, 2002. He was 38 when he married and was a virgin.

"Remaining celibate was the best decision for me to have a level of self-confidence to reach career goals on and off the court," said Green, who played in 1,192 consecutive games, spanning 15 seasons. "I wanted to start developing good habits as a single man that could only grow stronger as a married man.

"First, and most important, I chose not to focus on the spotlight. I placed my focus on walking with Christ daily. Second, I kept thinking about reaching my goals. Last, I did not worry about what people said or thought of my decision, and I could not compromise nor negotiate what I believed."

Another role model.

You want him talking to your son or daughter about good morals or Antonio Cromartie or Ben Roethlisberger? Cromartie, who, at age 25, has seven children, by six women across five states. All of the children six or younger.

We know about Ben's mess.

Tony Dungy's third book just came out - "The Mentor Leader."

"Take a moment to think about the answer to this question: 'Am I prepared to have great success and not get any credit for it?'" he writes. The first two books were brilliant and I can't wait to read the third one. He just does things the right way.

Cal Ripken Jr. was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in 2007.

"As years passed, it became clear to me that kids see all, not just some of your actions but all," Ripken said. "Whether we like or not, we big leaguers are role models. The only question is, will it be positive or will it be negative?

"Should we put players up on pedestals and require that they take responsibility? No. But we should encourage them to use their influence positively to help build up and develop the young people who follow the game.

"Sports can play a big role in teaching values and principles. Just think - teamwork, leadership, work ethic and trust are all part of the game, and they are also all factors in what we make of our lives."

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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