'Win or lose, be a good sport:' Hayden's actions bring mantra to life

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Apr. 14, 2019 12:01 am Updated: Apr. 14, 2019 12:50 am

The temperatures never climbed higher than 65 degrees throughout the day, but the exhausting nature of playing six matches in less than 24 hours took its toll.

"It was a tiring day," Quincy High School senior tennis player Blake Hayden said of the season-opening Troy Triad Invitational, held March 23. "It wasn't a hot day, but you were still in the sun. Your body is obviously tired. I was getting a little of cramps, but nothing too serious."

The Blue Devils played a dual match against Triad on Friday night before four grueling matches the next day. Quincy won two of the first three duals that day as Hayden and teammate Greysen Arns split their doubles matches and Hayden won in straight sets at No. 2 singles against Bloomington.

That led to a matchup with Urbana U-High where Hayden faced Aray Jagroop at No. 1 singles.

"We were battling the whole way," Hayden said. "It was up and down for each of us."

With little margin for error, every point mattered. It made things contentious.

"It got heated a couple times," Hayden said. "That's just the competitive spirit. You'll get that in any match."

That fire turned to compassion in a blink.

Midway through the match, Jagroop suffered a cramp in his right calf running down a shot. He fell to the court, writhing in pain as the Urbana U-High coaches watched from outside the fence. Hayden stood along the baseline waiting for someone to take action.

Sensing no one would, he did so himself.

"He was running up to a ball, felt it and fell down," Hayden said. "I just went up and tried to stretch him out and help him."

Hayden spent a minute or more stretching Jagroop's calf muscle until his opponent could relax and get to his feet. Not much was said outside of a simple "thank you," and the two went back to playing.

"I didn't want a match to end like that, win or lose," Hayden said.

Ultimately, he lost. Jagroop won the pro set 9-8 in a tiebreaker and the Blue Devils lost the dual match 3-2. The outcome could have been different, but Hayden would have always known he failed to do the right thing had that been the case.

"I just wanted to win fair and square and not put an asterisk next to it," Hayden said.

So there is no asterisk. No notation of any kind. And no "W" for the effort.

"I was mad that I lost the match obviously," Hayden said. "But a couple of days after it, when people started saying you did a good thing, it does make you feel a little better."

It takes some of the sting of the loss away.

"A little," Hayden said with a wry smile. "Not a lot, but a little."

Even so, he wouldn't change what he did or why he did it.

"My mom and dad have taught me that," Hayden said. "(QHS tennis coach Mike) Terry teaches us that. Even in golf, (QHS coach Doug) Bruner wants us to act that way. If someone needs help, go help them out. It's not that tough to do. Win or lose, be a good sport."

To have a team captain act in such a mature manner will have a ripple effect throughout the program and make Quincy's underclassmen consider what they would do under similar circumstances.

"It's just not often we see sportsmanship like this on open display," Terry said. "I am extremely proud of his actions."

Win or lose, Hayden would do it again for no other reason than it's the right thing to do.

"It's something anyone should do in that situation," Hayden said. "I hope if I fell down like that someone would help me out."