’s Julia Vandrak has been voted Western Pennsylvania’s “Most Positive High School Athlete” in girls tennis by Positive Athlete, an organization created by former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward.
Vandrak’s tennis coach, Eric Grove, nominated her for the honor.
“Julia is a positive athlete because of her hard work, positive attitude, determination to succeed, commitment to excellence and competitive spirit,” Grove said. “She demands the best from herself and is a positive example to her teammates.”
On Saturday, Ward presented the award to Vandrak and 25 other winners—who represent a variety of boys and girls sports across Western Pennsylvania—in a ceremony at the Heinz History Center’s Sports Museum in Pittsburgh. KDKA sports anchor Bob Pompeani, MSA Sports’ Lanny Frattare and Don Rebel served as the night's Masters of Ceremony.
“Being a Positive Athlete symbolizes something,” Ward said. “I wasn’t even the most talented guy on my football team—there were a lot of guys who had more talent. But I think what separated us was their negative attitude. I think that’s what the Positive Athlete Voting Academy saw in Julia as well.”
In addition to an awards’ certificate signed by Ward, Vandrak, a senior, received an autographed Positive Athlete Dedication T-shirt. The Pittsburgh Pirates organization also will treat Vandrak and the other winners to May 9 home game at PNC Park. She and the other students will be brought onto the field to watch batting practice and to meet the players
Positive Athlete was created as a movement for more positivity in youth sports. In addition to excellence on the field, each participating Positive Athlete shares similar characteristics, including an optimistic attitude, teammate encouragement, servant leadership, heart for others, ability to admit imperfections, giving 100 percent all the time and realizing the team as more important than the individual.
More than 170 students from 75 difference Western Pennsylvania high schools received nominations this year in the first of what will become an annual event.
“We hope this program focuses the spotlight on how important a positive attitude is, not only in sports, but in life as well,” Ward said. “The most successful business men and women are positive individuals, so we’re using sports to help instill those characteristics at a young age. Positivity is a life skill that will help any young person deal with relationships, obstacles and opportunities.”
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