Champions of Character

Every year, the Department of Neighborhood and Community Services – in partnership with the Fairfax County Athletic Council – host the Champions of Character Awards. Four awards are given in each magisterial district. One for a male and one for a female athlete, one for a parent volunteer and one for a coach. A reception is held for the winners at the Fairfax County Government Center. This year’s winners and their stories are below.

Braddock District
Ben LaJoie, Male Athlete, Burke Basketball

Ben Lajoie is a freshman at Robinson Secondary School. As a baseball player with West Springfield Little League, Ben has been a multiple year all-star. As a basketball player, Ben plays for Burke basketball as well as Team Elevate on the AAU circuit. Off the field, Ben has been selected as student of the quarter at Robinson SS for academic excellence. Beyond his athletic and academic success, Ben is the type of player that every coach wants. He pushes himself to work hard with perseverance and toughness. Ben offers praise and encouragement to his teammates no matter how the team is performing. Ben’s outstanding character, citizenship, work ethic, compassion, and kindness to others make him a leader both on AND off the field.

Ashley Danielle Thompson, Female Athlete, BRYC Volleyball Club

Ashley Thompson has earned a reputation as a hard-working, trustworthy individual who strives to excel. Ashley joined BRYC volleyball as a recreational player but, through her dedication and hard work, she became a member of the USAV Chesapeake Region Volleyball Association. Ashley is always one of the first players to practice and displays her leadership by setting goals for both herself and the team. Her passion for the sport is demonstrated in her countless hours volunteering as a coach during camps and clinics while serving as an official for recreation league matches. In addition to volleyball, Ashley is a member of a competitive dance team while carrying a 3.75 GPA for which she has received numerous academic honors. Ashley’s courage and tenacity when challenged is a testament to her natural ability to exceed expectations as a student athlete.

Bill Brosseau, Coach, Burke Athletic Club Phoenix

Coach Bill Brosseau’s 2017 BAC Phoenix Girl’s Lacrosse team consisted of several girls who had never played lacrosse. However, with an uncanny ability to recognize the girl’s strengths, Coach Bill’s positivity, encouragement and when needed, tough love, motivated the girls to work hard and have confidence in their abilities “We don’t lose ground balls” was the motto for the season and before long, After a few practices and first game adventures, the girls slowly started to improve. Coach Bill is no stranger to working with children as he is a father to nine children of his own.  Still, somehow Coach Bill manages to balance his personal life, his professional life and also coach Lacrosse. He finds time to regularly communicate detailed outlines of practices, post game summaries, and goals for upcoming games. Coach Bill keeps the “fun” in the game while, when needed, correcting the girls with respect and motivation to work harder. Coach Bill is an excellent role model on the field. During a playoff game, Coach Bill dealt with an official that tested his composure. Without a harsh word, he proceeded to lead his team to a first round victory. Further, his leadership resulted in the Phoenix becoming the first Burke Athletic Club Lacrosse team to win a Northern Virginia Youth Lacrosse League championship! The BAC Girls 3/4 LB2 Phoenix players are not hard to find, especially in the bright red shirts that Coach Bill gave them during the season. On those proudly worn shirts is his team’s motto for their championship season: “We don’t lose ground balls”!

Steve Bergstrom, Parent, BRYC Basketball

Steve has been involved with Braddock Road Youth Club for many years serving as treasurer for the non-profit organization. Steve has put in countless hours into the revitalization of the BRYC basketball house program. He has made an impact on many other sports in the BRYC athletic community to ensure that the programs are robust and thriving for years to come. Caring about the community is a trait that Steve wears with pride! We are proud to honor his commitment to BRYC and his remarkable display of Character. 

Dranesville District
Teddy Dehn, Male Athlete, Mclean Youth Track and Field

Teddy has been with MYTF for several seasons and is also an active participant in the USATF Junior Olympics program. Teddy consistently demonstrates a high level of self-discipline in his efforts to improve on a daily basis. Not only is Teddy respectful and helpful, Teddy is also caring and compassionate about his teammates. As a testament to this, Teddy frequently attends Junior Olympic events (other than his own) for the sole purpose of cheering on his friends. Teddy’s support was on display last spring at an MYTF event. Teddy chose to run an extra 800m run just to help a friend through the race. Although Teddy could have easily won the race, he chose to encourage and motivate his friend as they arrived the finish line, together. Teddy is a true shining example of a Champion of Character.

Karlye Pallotta, Female Athlete, Glory Fast Pitch Softball

Karlye is a senior at Langley High School and plays softball in the Glory Fast pitch organization. Karyle is known for her grit, determination and relentless effort with everything she does. She is continuously working to be the best version of herself for she knows that is how she can make the biggest impact both on and off the field. With her deep desire to help others, she is an incredible teammate who truly models what it means to play with a servant’s heart. She leads by example–her attitude, enthusiasm, and work ethic are exemplary. Karlye is not the type that takes on tasks for recognition, she takes them on because she is a humble young woman of character. Among other activities, Karlye plays at Langley High School where she was a four-year starter. After graduation, Karlye hopes to take her softball and academic talents Bowdoin college in Maine to study engineering.

Adam Knudson, Coach, Mclean Youth Track and Field

Adam has served as the Head Coach for MYTF for two seasons (as well as an assistant in years prior). Adam embodies an “arrive first, leave last” mentality while using his leadership to constantly expose his kids to as many events as possible. MYTF has experienced a record number of Junior Olympic participants in the last two seasons, largely due to Adam’s encouragement, training, and motivation. Adam’s personal focus on respect, sportsmanship, and personal improvement really make a developmental program like MYTF work. Additionally, his personal knowledge and reliability have encouraged more to stay committed and return to the program. Furthermore, Adam has forged a deep relationship with the local high school through leadership and character. As our program expands, we can only hope to have every coach be as committed to the program and as invested in the children as Adam continues to be!

Claudia Peters, Parent, Mclean Youth Track and Field

At a time where good volunteers are tough to come by, Claudia is the parent every youth sport wishes they had. Since track is a sport that takes approximately two dozen volunteers to operate a meet, Claudia never hesitates to jump in and wear many hats while doing so. Claudia even continued to assist with our program after her children opted to play another sport. When she is at practices or meets, she coaches, cheers and even runs with the kids to show support. Her positivity and enthusiasm are genuinely infectious while she is the model of caring, responsibility, and leadership. She has a visible impact on both the kids and parents in our program. Thus, we are proud to honor her as a true Champion of Character.

Hunter Mill District
Alex Irisari, Male Athlete, VYI Football

Alex Irisari is a 5th Grader at Our Lady of Good Counsel and is a member of the VYI 80lb American football team. Additionally, Alex’s athletic endeavors include 3 years of VYI wrestling culminating in a NVWF Regional title, Rec & Club lacrosse where Alex was the summer 2017 tournament MVP, and CYO basketball with Our Lady of Good Counsel. Off the field, mat, and court…Alex has a strong desire for servitude at an early age to include: participating in his fourth year of service with the Cub Scouts Pack 976 and serving his second year as an Alter Server at OLGC. Alex has demonstrated that with focus and a willingness to serve beyond himself, good character will always be a foundation for success in life.

Katie Kenny, Female Athlete, Vienna Youth Soccer

Katie Kenny has been an active TOPSoccer volunteer with VYS for over six years as a buddy and a coach. Katie arrives every Saturday afternoon during the fall and spring soccer seasons excited and enthusiastic about working with the special needs players. Her warm and kind demeanor along with her ability to lead others has been a tremendous asset to the program. Further, Katie has worked to promote the program by encouraging local elementary school special education teachers to get their kids involved in the game of soccer. Off the field, Katie is a senior at George C. Marshall High School where she maintains an A average in the IB program. Additionally, she runs cross country and track, serves as a student council rep, and is president of the Marshall’s Best Buddies Program. Katie’s commitment as a young volunteer to our children with special needs has contributed enormously to the success of the VYS TOPSoccer program.

Crystal Marie-Haney, Coach, CYA Cheer

Crystal is a perfectionist and competitive by nature, with a powerful athletic background. As a cheer parent, Crystal recognized the untapped potential in the girls. Thus, after observing the program for a year, Crystal decided to coach and bring CYA Cheerleading to the next level. She immediately earned the girls respect and decided to take the girls talents to the competition mat. When the sideline season ended, Crystal worked tirelessly (while going to college and maintaining a 4.0 GPA) to develop a routine worthy of a competition. Of note, it takes hours to build a competition routine to include: hours of searching through databases of qualified music choices, cutting pieces of the music into a mix that meets the meets competition guidelines, and possessing an intimate knowledge of each athlete’s skill level to maximize the girl’s talents. With Coach Crystal’s leadership and guidance, every athlete challenged themselves resulting in two first-place CYA titles for their division. Crystal isn’t just a coach, but a big cup of wonderful covered in awesome sauce with a splash of sassy and a dash of crazy. CYA is proud to honor her as a Champion of Character.

Danielle Mudge, Parent, CYA Cheer

Parents often sit at practices to watch their athletes and chat with other parents. When volunteers are needed to assist in the program, there may be some resistance and hesitancy. CYA Cheer has the luxury that when coaches are shorthanded, one can call upon Danielle to step in and assist. Danielle hasn’t missed a single practice or game; she is simply a wonderful, reliable parent that has never been asked or forced into service for CYA. Danielle has designed and executed fundraising ventures for CYA Cheer, assisted the coaches with communication procedures, and made over 100 cheer bows for the sideline and competition squads. Although she doesn’t have a title or role in the program, Danielle will always go above and beyond as a cheer parent. That’s her true character and we are proud that Danielle is a part of the CYA family!

Lee District
Chauncey Chambers, Male Athlete, Lee High School

Chauncey is a senior at Lee High school and participates in cross country and track. He is an excellent student athlete that prides himself on giving back to his community. His work ethic in the classroom and on the track is exceptional.  Chauncey motivates his teammates through his hard work and leading by example. His courage and adaptability were on full display last season when his track coaches asked if he would try a new event to help the squad–the triple jump. Chauncey’s team first attitude said “sure, let’s give it a go!” To no surprise, as a first year jumper, Chauncey reached the pinnacle of high school athletics by winning a state championship! Now in his final year, he has his sights set on the national level. Chauncey is the model of what it means to have a warrior’s spirit with a servant’s heart. His warm and ready smile lights up a room as he brings joy to all he encounters. He is most deserving of a Fairfax County Champion of Character award.

Marina Rivera-Hernandez, Female Athlete, SYC Soccer High School Girls House League

Sometimes life provides great gifts and we don’t really appreciate our luck. Marina Rivera-Hernandez is such a gift. Due to her smaller size and young appearance, Marina was initially mistaken for a younger player. But right away, Marina showed her capabilities by averaging six goals and five assists a season for four seasons. Marina is a perennial all-star as a player who typically is the first to arrive at practices and games. Unfortunately, adversity struck as Marina had knee surgery forcing her to miss the 2014 season. Undaunted, Marina attended every game and almost every practice while taking on a role as the unofficial assistant coach. After recovering, Marina returned as a player-coach before suffering a knee injury to her other knee in 2016. Most people would pack it in, but in typical Marina fashion, she continued report to every practice and game continuing as an assistant coach. Marina returned in 2017 for her last season of youth play while taking courses at NOVA. Her character helped guide the team to an undefeated season. Marina represents herself, her family, and the SYC community in an exceptional manner and is most definitely a Champion of Character.

Craig Brown, Coach, Northern Virginia Girls Softball Association

It is said, “Leaders do not create followers… they create more leaders.”  This perfectly describes the leadership Craig Brown has brought to the Northern Virginia Girls Softball Association (NVGSA). Over the years, Craig has undertaken many roles to include coaching (many seasons coaching two different teams at different age levels at the same time) and volunteering his home to host NVGSA Board meetings.  Many volunteers have limits to what tasks they will undertake – but not Craig.  He actively spearheaded the league’s effort to get 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, manages the league’s insurance cost to keep player fees low, updates the website with the latest league news, serves as a division commissioner, and also happens to be the league Vice President! Additionally, for new coaches, he is an indispensable resource. Despite his busy schedule, he always has time to answer questions, clarify rules, and discuss coaching philosophies.  Most importantly, his focus is to create a fair and positive environment for each and every NVGSA player, where she can succeed and achieve. Craig Brown is a role model to players, and is an inspiration to coaches and fellow NVGSA Board Members.  Craig is indeed, a Champion of Character.

Kevin Lowry, Parent, Lee Mt. Vernon Sports Club

Kevin Lowry exhibits all characteristics of the ideal player parent. From day one, Mr. Lowry has been the first to support a coach, not for the coaches’ accolades or records, but for the engagement, interaction, support and overall attitude towards a player. Mr. Lowry dedicates countless hours of personal time by assisting with transportation needs and game day management. Moreover, you will only hear praise coming from Mr. Lowry’s mouth as he not only supports his players but every player on the field. He leads by example by demonstrating that selflessness is the key to happiness. Individuals like Kevin Lowry are the backbone to any clubs true success. We honor his contributions as we are extremely fortunate to have Kevin Lowry as a part of Lee Mt. Vernon Sports Club Family. 

Mason District
Jalen Marcus Jackson, Male Athlete, Annandale Atoms

Humble, honest, and workhorse are a few words that have used to describe Jalen from coaches, players, and journalist. Jalen not only takes pride on the field win or lose, but with his classmates, friends, and family. Further, he has been honored with several regional 1st team running back honors. He believes that “teamwork makes the dream work.” Off the field, Jalen took on the task to bag bread on Saturday mornings for members of his church. When his GPA fell during his freshman and sophomore years, he held himself accountable and made amazing honor roll strides including being named “US Government Student of the Quarter.” Jalen Jackson is a true inspiration for any young man! He is truly a Champion of Character with a story to tell.

Amanda Sternitzke, Female Athlete, Annandale Boys and Girls Club (ABGC)

Amanda is a 4-year player in the AUFC travel program. She has competed across three age group culminating in multiple first and second place tournament finishes. Amanda has a high academic pedigree dating back to middle school where she was a straight ‘A’ honor roll student all three years. As a result, she was inducted as a founding member of her middle school’s first ever National Junior Honor Society. Further, Amanda was the founder and president of the Program for Animal Welfare (PAW) at her school which now boast 50 members! Amanda has managed toys, T-shirt, and holiday food collection drives that have raised funds for medical treatment of foster pets. Additionally Amanda participates in the school’s guitar program and was selected for the all-county guitar ensemble. As role model to many of our players, Amanda has demonstrated the highest levels of leadership, community service, academic excellence and athletic performance.

Brian Birtell, Coach, Annandale Boys and Girls Club

Brian has been a volunteer coach for ABGC 8 years and has devoted countless hours to supporting the club’s mission. Always willing to say “yes”…he has coached girl’s soccer and basketball, served as the age group coordinator, field coordinator, and All-Star coordinator. When it comes to his own team, Brian is more concerned with developing the person than the player. He considers his team his family, and takes pride in mentoring young ladies to be successful students and leaders. Sportsmanship and dignity are always emphasized over victory or defeat. Away from the field, Brian works as an IT consultant and actively participates in community service events. Additionally, Brian serves on the Board of the Arlington Moose Lodge and is a member of the Sunset Manor Civic Association.

Without a doubt, Brian exemplifies the definition of Character and is an asset to the club and community.

Jeffrey Jones, Parent, JEB Stuart High School

Mr. Jeffrey (Jeff) Jones is an alumni of JEB Stuart and is deeply rooted in the community. With today’s hectic tempo, he is aware that not all parents have the luxury of attending their child’s athletic events. With this in mind, Jeff created a Facebook page with the mantra #RaidersRise where he post photographs of the JEB Stuart athletes in every sport at every level. These photographs capture the passion, energy, emotion, and determination of our student-athletes thus creating a greater since of comradery in our school. Jeff’s volunteer efforts are a prime example of how one person can create a movement. His success in this endeavor is measured by his heart and not the scoreboard. He is a shining example of a parent that demonstrates the outstanding strength of character.

Mt. Vernon District
Jordan Miller, Male Athlete, Gum Springs Community Center

Jordan was the first and only male from the relocate Huntington Community Center to participate on the Gum Springs Kickball team. When asked if he would be willing to participate and travel to games, Jordan did not hesitate to say “YES!” Despite being only one of a few males on the team, Jordan offered his leadership by supporting his fellow female teammates at all times. He is cheerful, encouraging, respectful, and displayed great teamwork through the entire season. Further, after such a great experience with kickball, Jordan joined the Gum Springs weekly volleyball sessions and actively promoted the sport to his male friends. Through his outstanding display of character and leadership, Jordan is now a youth worker within our center. It is an honor to designate Jordan as a Champion of Character.

Jessica Foss, Female Athlete, Gunston Soccer

It is said that good players inspire themselves, great players inspire others. Jessica Foss is a great player, not because of her incredible speed or soccer skills, but because of the example she sets. Jessie embodies the spirit of sportsmanship and is a dependable team player who always displays a high degree of integrity. In recognition of her high leadership ability, she was selected as a captain for the Gunston U15 girls travel soccer team and West Potomac’s junior varsity soccer. In addition to her demanding scholastic and soccer schedule, Jessica volunteers at the library and with her church youth group. Notably, she will be spend part of her upcoming summer traveling to rural area’s in Virginia to help with building projects in underserved areas. Jessica’s boundless enthusiasm and energy make us proud to have her as part of our organization. 

Theodore “Ted” Renaud, Coach, Gunston Soccer

Ted is nothing less than a Northern Virginia soccer guru. He coaches two girls soccer teams and is the commissioner for Gunstons’s U11/U12 recreation soccer program. Ted serves as a representative for Northern Virginia’s TOPSccer program while also running Gunston’s TOPSoccer program (the largest in Northern Virginia). Ted has done an outstanding job of encouraging older players to get involved in the program while creating an environment of self-confidence and relationship building that goes way beyond the field. Ted continues to promote the program within the special needs community as well as the community at large. So, if you want to see love in action, take a stroll down to Grist Mill Park one evening. There you will find an impassioned ambassador that has devoted his life to his soccer players. This is a true measure of character.

Wanda Rankin, Parent, SCAA South County Athletic Assoc.

Wanda is among the most sought after South County community volunteers for any and all sports related activities and fund raisers. Over the last 8 years, Wanda has served as a volunteer and board member for the South County Athletic Association, as well as volunteering for South County High School’s PTSO and Athletic Boosters. Wanda was instrumental in the establishment of SCAA’s Track and Field team where she served as team admin, team parent, and marketing director. Whether it is fulfilling a coach’s needs prior to practice or games, providing transportation, or running SCAA errands, her dedication to the community is unquestioned. Wanda works tirelessly to ensure all youth in the South County community are afforded the opportunity to participate. Wanda Rankin embodies the criteria of a true Champion of Character.

Providence District
Trevor Johnson, Male Athlete, Chantilly Youth Association

Trevor Johnson, an 8th grader at Franklin Middle School, has been playing basketball since he was a toddler. He has played for Chantilly Youth Association since the 1st grade and began playing FCYBL Travel basketball in 4th grade. As a member of CYA’s division 1 travel team for the last few years, Trevor has set an example of exceptional character, sportsmanship, and competitiveness.  He is a leader on the floor in rebounds, blocks and scoring.  He gives 100 percent in practice and games, always striving to improve his skills.  But more importantly, Trevor believes that the only way to win is for all the players to work together.  He goes the extra mile to make sure everyone on the floor is involved and always encourages teammates, while often sacrificing his own opportunity to score. Regardless of the outcome, you can’t miss the huge smile on his face when he is with his teammates. Off the court, Trevor is a leader in the classroom, is a member of NJHS, and the recipient of student recognition awards at Franklin MS. A true Champion of Character indeed.

Kayla Wells, Female Athlete, Vienna Girls Softball League (VGSL)

Kayla Wells has always been an athlete, starting as young as kindergarten with speed skating and soccer. She started playing softball in the Vienna Girls Softball League (VGSL) late in sixth grade (12U). Just two years after starting softball, Kayla was selected for her first travel team. It is standard practice for Kayla to go the extra mile to show dedication.  She is always one of the first to practices and games and continues to look to improve her game.  Kayla routinely volunteers to help out with younger VGSL recreational league players and coaches by mentoring younger players on the team. Kayla spent her freshmen and sophomore High School years on the Madison JV softball team where she worked hard to be a starter in her sophomore year.  Despite not being selected for the Madison Varsity team her Junior year, she kept moving forward with the sport and returned to the JV team to be a volunteer coach in spring of 2017.  She sacrificed her personal time to give back to the sport and instruct the younger JV ladies on the fundamentals and strategy of the game. Kayla’s display of character is an inspiration to the VGSL family. 

Walt Brady, Coach, VGSL

Walt Brady began his foray in Vienna Girls’ softball when his now 24-year old daughter was only ten.  Fourteen years later, Walt has made a difference in hundreds of girls’ lives. Some girls have played softball for only one season, while others go on to play for many years at all levels of the sport including rec league, regional and national travel ball leagues, as HS athletes, and even at the college level! He easily recalls the numerous families that have come through the sport of softball and their individual contributions and accomplishments.  We all know that if you ever need to know something about local softball info, you contact Walt Brady! The dedication that Walt has brought to the league, in so many aspects, is consistent with his work ethic – 110% all the time.  As a historian, Walt is able to bring a perspective to the sport and to the league that has allowed them to move forward and expand. Having served on the Fairfax County Athletic Council for many years, Walt has tirelessly advocated for equality of girls’ sports teams to receive equal opportunities and facilities throughout the entire county, not just in Vienna. If your daughter plays softball in Fairfax, she has benefitted from Walt’s behind the scenes work. Now, after 14 years and all he has done for our female youth in this county, Walt will be stepping down as President of VGSL. We all know he won’t be completely gone as you are sure to catch a glimpse of Walt around the fields, catching a game, fixing that broken tractor or mowing the long grass so the girls can continue his legacy.

Amy Wise, Parent, Fairfax Little League

Amy has been a team parent with Fairfax Little League for many years. Over those years she has helped team managers with setting up team websites, organizing team parties, organizing other volunteers, and administrative tasks. This season, Amy was asked to serve as the American league player agent. With little hesitation, Amy jumped in and coordinated player evaluations for over 500 kids, oversaw the player draft process for 24 teams, and coordinated eligibility for 5 All-Star teams. With her dedication, continuous quality of service and abundance of positivity, Amy Wise is deserving of this Champion of Character award.

Springfield District
Dillion Corey, Male Athlete, Annandale North Springfield Little League

Dillion Corey plays for Annandale North Springfield Little League (ANSLL) for three years. He is not the most vocal player, but is a leader in every sense of the word. Too often young players focus on personal stats or ignore less talented players…that is not the case with Dillion. As an athlete, Dillion does not limit his interactions to better players or his best friends, he truly embodies the word TEAM through his involvement with all players. In July, Dillion led ANSLL All-Star team to a district title and a berth in the Virginia state little league tournament. Against top talent, Dilion excelled with 4 homeruns in his first 4 at bats. Through the success, he showed humility and respect for his opponents and garnered many compliments for his great display of character. Dillion is a positive, hard-working kid who models outstanding behavior.

Mary Debolt, Female Athlete, NVGSA

Mary Played fast pitch softball for over 9 years to include 4 years at West Springfield High School. She was elected co-captain of the varsity squad last spring. Mary has always been that player every coach wants on their team. She respect the sport, her teammates and those who coach it. But most importantly, she respects the efforts that her teammates put forth individually to improve the team collectively. Off the field, Mary participated in concert and Bel Canto Choir at West Springfield. She taught Sunday school, served in the Key Club, and volunteered for Relay for Life and Wreaths Across America. She is also a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Heath/Occupations Students of America (HOSA). She plans to attend Shenandoah University after earning a 3.98 GPA. It is with great pride that we honor Mary Debolt as a Champion of Character.

Tom Meyer, Coach, NVGSA 

Tom Meyer has been instrumental in developing girls’ softball with NVGSA as a parent, volunteer, coach and leader since 2004. As the current president, he works to promote sportsmanship and teamwork throughout the fast pitch softball community. During is presidency, Tom has added in-season and winter skills advancement camps and clinics for coaches and players. Coach Meyer fosters individual and team development in all players regardless of ability and family financial constraints. Away from the diamond, Tom can be found announcing Saturday morning swim meets at Highland Park Pool, officiating Mark Twain Middle School Basketball games on Tiger night, or serving as pit boss in the casino at the Edison High School all night grad party. His tireless dedication to the athletic community and the athletes who play is an inspiration worth emulating.

Kela Shuettler, Parent, NVGSA Firebirds ‘06

Kela Shuettler, one of many team parents for the NVGSA ’06 Firebirds, is always ready and willing to do whatever she can to ensure the girls are having fun and focused on fun, sportsmanship, and their love of the game. Kela can always be counted on to volunteer for whatever the team needs, whether it’s related to administration, fundraising, or help at practice. She is a vocal and consistent supporter of every player on the team, and even does little things to support the coaches and other volunteers, like buying and decorating a step-stool for the team photographer. But, Kela really shines when she’s working to make sure the girls are enjoying their time together playing softball. Since travel softball can often be tense and serious, her talent for coordinating team-building and inter-age group mentoring, costume design, and off-field activity planning is legendary. She is the Firebirds’ champion of character.

Sully District
Ryan Davis, Male Athlete, Oakton HS and American Legion Baseball

Ryan Davis is a recent graduate from Oakton High School where he was an All-Met catcher and an excellent student. Additionally, Ryan is also an outstanding dancer in the ballet where he mentors and teaches young performers. Ryan is considered by many he meets, simply a perfect gentlemen. He models the type of behavior that would make you proud to associate yourself with him. Ryan is currently a freshman at Georgetown University where he is sure to delight all that he meets with his impressive integrity and character. It is with great pride that we hold up Ryan Davis as a Champion of Character.

Nicole Mueller, Female Athlete, Southwestern Youth Association

Nicole Mueller is in the 2nd grade and plays Rugby for SYA. As one of the older kids in her age group, she demonstrated her leadership both on and off the field by patiently assisting new players and bonding with her teammates. Nicole is always respectful to coaches, her teammates, and her opponents. While she is a fierce competitor, she always take instruction with a positive attitude and encourages teammates through the tough times. Nicole is truly a team player, inspirational leader, and a great role model for youth sports participants. As such, SYA Rugby honors her as a Champion of Character.

Charles Ilari, Coach, Southwestern Youth Association Volleyball

Charles Ilari is a coach in the SYA elementary level volleyball program. Additionally, Charles serves as the elementary level director performing such duties as: team construction, scheduling, and communication procedures, Charles always treats his players and parents with the utmost respect. He puts emphasis on the players growing both as athletes and as people and stresses the importance of great character. Elementary level volleyball requires a high level of patience and every year parents take the time to let the SYA organization know what a great coach he is. Charles is the type of coach that any athlete or parent would be honored to have.

Tom Phipps, Parent, Southwestern Youth Association Rugby

Many outstanding volunteers sacrifice a significant amount of personal time to ensure of the success of a program but, what sets Tom apart is his positive attitude and willingness to assist with a gleeful spirit. Tom’s demeanor with children is inspirational. Not only does Tom exhibit this positive behavior, but his friendly persona is taken on by the children under his care as they show respect for each other regardless of ability, gender, or ethnicity. As evidence of his spirit, Tom’s two middle school sons are volunteer coaches and they share their father’s patient demeanor with young student-athletes. Tom Phipps is an excellent representative of everything organizations should seek in their volunteers and SYA rugby has been blessed to have him as a part of ours!

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