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Soccer player displays ‘character of a champion’

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013 1:39 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013 1:44 a.m. CDT
(Contributed photo)
Graceland University forward Kevin Irr (kneeling) ties the shoe of an opponent from Central Methodist University. The player was wearing gloves when his shoe came untied, and Irr, senior from Creston, quickly assisted him on the field in a gesture of sportsmanship.

LAMONI — Fear no one, but respect everyone.

Kevin Irr, a senior captain for the Graceland men’s soccer team from Creston, tries to live his life by that creed.

As an athlete, he must not fear his opponents, but respect them.

Irr displayed his committment to respect and his personal character in a recent match against Central Methodist University in a simple, yet important manner.

The Central Methodist player was wearing gloves when his shoe came un-tied, so Irr came to his aid and tied his opponent’s shoe.

As an NAIA member, the importance of being a Champion of Character rings powerfully through Graceland’s athletic programs. The five core values of the Champions of Character program are integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship, and servant leadership.

Head soccer coach Guillermo Sanchez understands the significance of these values.

“The situations that happen in sports, those same situations will happen in the work force, in marriage, in life... As a coach, we use these teachable moments to help instill in our players that you are an athlete, but first you are a person.”

Irr began playing competitive sports at age 6, and credits much of his character to what he has learned through soccer, basketball, football, and baseball. He is the second-youngest of four sons of Bob and Lynn Irr of rural Creston. All four have been involved in multiple activities for Creston schools.

“When you think about the time and effort that you put in to being an athlete you can’t help but have respect for the others that are striving for the same things,” he said.

Growing up in rural Iowa, it was difficult to find competitive teams near his home, so Irr’s parents made a long drive several times a week to allow him access to high-performing teams. The sacrifice his parents made for him inspired Irr to dedicate himself to hard work, to lead by example, and to build relationships with the members of each team and treat them with respect.

Irr has found that the Graceland soccer program helped him understand the relevance of good character. “It has taught me that soccer isn’t the only thing in life — academics, relationships, and helping the community are just as important,” he says.

The coaching staff, including Guillermo Sanchez and Bryan Courtney, emphasize the importance of the five core values in a variety of ways. Players attend study sessions to remain high-performers academically and help in the community to reinforce the value of caring for other people.

“At the beginning of this season, Kevin organized a community service project for the team, and the coaches didn’t know anything about it,” says Sanchez. “He set it all up himself; the guys helped to line all the soccer fields in Kevin’s hometown.”

Kevin Irr, along with the other members of the GU soccer program, represent their families, Graceland, and the NAIA with pride.

— Graceland University news service.

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