Founded by Ted Devine, 1WORLD Sports' mission is to educate, motivate and inspire underprivileged youth through sports to become better athletes but more importantly to become better people. The organization fulfills its goal through partnerships with professional franchises and youth organizations to stage Events to Inspire, which use participation in sports as a mechanism to instill life lessons.
"Coaches are the lynchpin for our foundation," Devine said. "We run our programs through a group of coaches who have been trained to develop and communicate the life lessons we hold so important. We wanted to create an award for a Coach of the Year who best represents what 1WORLD Sports is all about, and after talking to a lot of people and doing our own research, Coach Fitzgerald kept rising to the top."
In honoring Fitzgerald with its Coach of the Year Award, 1WORLD Sports cited his status as a "responsible athlete" in the following criteria:
Academics: Northwestern football recently earned its sixth AFCA Academic Achievement Award for having the highest graduation rate in the nation (100 percent). The team just earned its best academic-quarter GPA in program history with a 3.02 in the winter of 2011. Fifty-five student-athletes from the team had GPAs over 3.0 and eight had perfect 4.0 marks.
Community: Chicago's Big Ten Team regularly performs nearly 100 hours of community service each month on average. In recent weeks, student-athletes have participated in St. Baldrick's efforts to eliminate Pediatric Cancer, canned for Misericordia during the organization's Candy Days, coached Special Olympics teams on a weekly basis and volunteered with Campus Kitchens to fight hunger in local communities. This spring, NU's traditional Friday visits to Children's Memorial Hospital will begin again.
Teamwork: "Anyone who has watched the 'Cats play knows they give 100 percent all of the time and teamwork is at the center of their school-record three-straight bowl berths," Devine said. "One element of the program we really respect is Fitzgerald's creation of the 10-player Leadership Council where he sits down with a group of student-athletes each week to get their views on how best to improve the team. Players must write applications to be nominated for this honor just like our 1WORLD Sports kids write essays on the importance of sport in their lives."
Partnering with community groups such as the Chicago Housing Authority, Illinois Youth Soccer Inner City Program and Girls in the Game, 1WORLD Sports had nearly 1,000 mostly at-risk youth complete its Responsibilities of an Athlete workbook this year. The organization has staged Events to Inspire with Manchester United, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Chicago Fire, the Chicago Sky and, in July, will stage another with the Chicago Cubs.