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If you read the paper last week, you probably noticed a story on the front page about Tierra Bryant, a 14-year-old special needs student who became a member of the girls’ soccer team at Cedar Grove Middle School earlier this year.
Tierra was a wonderful story.
I spent two hours of my day two weeks ago on a beautiful Thursday afternoon catching up with Tierra’s wonderful parents, John and Nancy Bryant. I hadn’t had that much fun at a middle school soccer game since scoring the game-winning goal against South Brunswick as a seventh grader at Shallotte Middle School to clinch the county championship. Sorry, Cougars!
Now that my shameless self-promotion is out of the way, here’s the deal: Tierra can serve as an inspiration to us all. We all tend to get bogged down during our daily routines, but not Tierra. Here is a girl with seemingly significant disabilities who doesn’t frown, sulk or spend most of her days feeling sorry for herself. She rises above them daily.
I think a part of the story that’s almost as wonderful as Tierra’s persistence is the selflessness showed by other members of the Lady Bulldogs. As my editor reminded me during production last week, “I remember what 14-year-old girls were like when I was growing up. It wasn’t pretty.”
And she’s exactly right — kids can be mean. Kids can be really mean.
Not only is Tierra never treated poorly, it was her teammates’idea to get her on the squad in the first place. Tierra didn’t approach head coach Marty Mentzer about joining the club, nor did Mentzer ask Tierra.
It was a group of girls who genuinely cared about their classmate — no, their friend — and wanted to offer her the opportunity to be part of something special.
During pregame warm-ups before Cedar Grove’s game against Leland, I noticed Tierra dribbling the ball toward the mouth of the goal when the Bulldogs’ goalie encouraged Tierra to take a shot on goal. Tierra put everything she had into the shot attempt, but it rolled slowly toward the goalkeeper. Instead of easily corralling the ball and passing it to the next team member, Cedar Grove’s goalie sidestepped Tierra’s slow roller as it tricked past the white line and into the back of the net.
The entire team cheered as if the Lady Bulldogs had just clinched a World Cup berth.
During that moment, Tierra Bryant was Pele, and, boy, was it fun to watch.
As the crime reporter for the Beacon, I come across news daily that’s disappointing, or depressing, depending on how you look at it.
Fortunately for me last week, for every bit of bad news, I had the story of Tierra Bryant and her teammates to fall back on for encouragement.
There’s a good chance those girls won’t realize the impact they made on Tierra until they reflect on their middle school years several years from now.
When they do, I hope they realize just how special this soccer season was for Tierra and how inspirational they were to me.
Sam Hickman is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or firstname.lastname@example.org.