Athletics have always been a training ground for youngsters to learn how to conduct themselves throughout their lives. They may not always win or play as much as they like, but sports teach an important lesson: how to work as a team. Physical ability is important to having a successful team but it is also essential to have teammates with positive attitudes.
Ten-year-old Bethany Beach resident Delaney McMullen was honored by Sports Illustrated for Kids in their August edition for an essay she’d written about sportsmanship in a contest at the Ocean City Recreation Center.
Her essay outlined the major tenants of athletics: respect for authority, having a positive attitude, offer positive reinforcement to teammates and even opponents, dedication, conflict resolution and teamwork.
McMullen placed second in the local contest but contest officials sent her essay out and it eventually made its way to Sports Illustrated for Kids, where she ultimately placed first in the country.
“It is pretty cool getting into Sports Illustrated for Kids, especially since I didn’t know it was going on,” said McMullen. “I was glad I got second place because if I won I may not have gotten into Sports Illustrated for Kids.”
McMullen loves to play sports and meet new people, but asserts that winning or losing isn’t the most important thing — having fun is.
“It’s not a big deal if the other team scores a goal,” said McMullen. “You have to have fun and sportsmanship is important because the game wouldn’t be fun if everyone is yelling at each other.”
McMullen plays soccer, basketball, swims for the Sea Colony Sharks, participates in the junior lifeguard program at Middlesex Beach (where she met her best friends Ellie Glasgow and Frances Revel) and likes to mix it up with the boys for a little roller hockey.
“I had to prove myself to them,” said McMullen. “Boys in sports think that girls can’t play the same sports sometimes.”
If there were any doubts whether or not McMullen could play with the big boys, she made sure to silence the critics at a recent roller hockey game when she stole the ball and scored on a teenager to earn some respect.
“I was pretty happy because the guys knew I could play, too,” said McMullen.
McMullen is the youngest of three children and grew up with two older brothers, Connor and Sean (19 and 18 respectively). Competing against them definitely helped her develop along the way.
“I would always play with my brothers and if I fell and skinned my knee, they would tell me it was no big deal,” said McMullen. “But sometimes they were bad sports and I didn’t want to be like that, so I just did the opposite.”
McMullen’s family is a big part of her life and she admires them very much. That is why she has followed in the family tradition in the pool — the breast stroke.
“Everyone in my family does the breast stroke and I look up to everyone,” said McMullen. “My cousin Ryan Bocch swims at college [Shippensburg University] and is really good at the breast stroke.”
McMullen also draws inspiration from her swimming hero, Olympic medalist Amanda Beard, and one day hopes to compete in the Olympics herself.
“She is really good at the breast stroke and I’m going to try to do it more like her,” said McMullen. “She wins a lot.” “
Beard has a long tally of Olympic wins but McMullen has a good start and looks to improve.
Her swim team, the Sharks, competed at the YMCA in Salisbury, Md. and placed third in her division in the 25-yard breast stroke with a time of 21.25 — and with her teammates’ help placed fourth in the 100-yard medley. The Sharks placed 11th overall and first in their division in only their second year.
Despite experiencing a new level of success, McMullen wants more and has a clear understanding of what she must do to improve next year.
“I have to work on my strength because I don’t get much power,” admits McMullen.
In hopes of lowering her times, McMullen practices really hard and pushes herself even harder.
“In practice, I do the 200 [yard] in only breast stroke and I do it as fast as I do in the meets,” explained McMullen.
Pretty tough considering McMullen usually swims in 25-yard intervals, but this can only make next year’s transition even easier when she moves up a level.
“Next year, I’ll swim the 50 [yard] with the older girls but I’m going to make it,” said McMullen. “I want to stay positive. A lot of people who are bad sports don’t believe that they can do it, but if you believe then you can do it.”
McMullen is also adamant that players should listen to their coaches, even if they are professional. McMullen, a former Philadelphia resident and current Eagles fan, has not liked what she has seen recently from standout wide receiver Terrell Owens and has little time for unprofessional conduct.
“He should’ve thought about what he was going to do before he did it,” said McMullen. “You should listen to the coach even if you’re an adult because he [or she] knows better and has more experience.”
In addition to listening and respecting the coach’s wishes, McMullen also believes individual celebrations are bad for sports, as well.
“When players do touchdown dances it isn’t good sportsmanship because they are showing the other team that they can do it and they can’t,” said McMullen.
In only 10 years of life, McMullen has learned what many have never learned — how to compete and be a good teammate.
She has dreams of swimming and placing in the Olympics but the lessons and achievements that McMullen has accumulated make her a world champion already.