COAST CITIES — Life and sports share a parallel. What you can take from one, you can apply to the other and vice versa.
For Kendrick Azubuike, sports and basketball were ways for him to get away from anything. Going to the gym, or playing on the courts was a way for him to relieve stress.
Monica Robinson uses the lessons tennis has taught her in her everyday life.
Tennis has taught Robinson that hard work, passion and heart will get you through, she said. “Tennis is such a mental sport. Whenever I’ve had a challenge in, let’s say the classroom or in life, I know that my mental toughness follows through.”
On Monday Azubuike of the Army and Navy Academy and Robinson of Fallbrook High School each earned recognition when it was announced that they were the recipients of the inaugural Spotlight Sports/ John Carney Award.
James Schwab, founder and publisher of Spotlight Sports, wanted to create an award that would honor a really special type of student athlete — a student athlete that went above and beyond in demonstrating outstanding leadership, character and achievements in the class and the community.
“We feel that these two are truly representative of that,” Schwab said.
The award, named after former San Diego Chargers kicker John Carney, was presented to the athletes by Carney at his coaching facility in Carlsbad.
Carney, Schwab said, was a great fit to name the award after because of his personal and professional accomplishments.
“Sports is a microcosm of life,” Carney said. “There are good times and bad times…there are times where you ignore the critics and maintain your direction and positive outlook on where you’re headed and what you’re going to do to get there.”
Sports help to instill discipline, teamwork and sacrifice, he said. “Sacrifice, because at times you need to sacrifice the enjoyable things you want to do to put in the hard work and the time so you’re successful on the field and your team is successful on the field.”
Carney would know a thing or two about success, having spent more than 20 seasons in the NFL, with the Chargers and the New Orleans Saints, earning two Pro Bowl nods and is the fourth all-time scorer in the NFL.
Given all of that success, he still recalls his high school days proudly spent in Florida at Cardinal Newman High School, he said. “We were the Crusaders and we got to experience a 10-0 team my senior year…it was a special time,” he added.
Having pride in representing your school and forming a bond with the team is a big part of your high school experience, Carney said.
One of Azubuike’s favorite memories while playing at Army and Navy Academy was the team’s CIF game this season. “It was probably my best game,” he said, adding that it was hitting a solid three-pointer near the end of the game that gave the team their first lead.
Azubuike said receiving the award was a “really big accomplishment.” “I’ve always played basketball my whole life and I did community service a lot in high school, but I never really looked for any acknowledgement for anything that I did,” he said.
Assistant varsity basketball coach John Maffucci said that Azubuike always wanted to learn and do things to become better.
Watching him grow from the seventh grade on up through his senior year, Maffucci said Azubuike is very mature. “He knows what he wants and is going after it.”
He’ll be heading to UCLA in the fall and will attempt to walk on to the Bruin’s basketball program under head coach Steve Alford. He’ll be majoring in the field of sciences.
Robinson said it was a big honor to be one of the first ever to receive the award, adding the she looks forward to seeing who the future recipients will be.
“It’s just a really big honor from Mr. Carney to be awarded, especially a graduate from Notre Dame,” she said. Carney is a Notre Dame alumnus, and Robinson will be heading to Notre Dame this fall with the hopes of majoring in business with a minor in Spanish.