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More than an athlete: Voice for the voiceless

Posted: June 14, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 14, 2012 1:55 a.m.

West Ranch’s Josh Caton was given the “Coach’s Award” for sportsmanship on the boys volleyball team this year. It was his first and only season on the varsity team.

 

Thank you.

After every practice and every match, West Ranch senior student-athlete Josh Caton told Wildcats head volleyball coach Nate Sparks, “Thank you.”

After every practice and game, even when given an instruction, Caton would tell boys head basketball coach Shant Bicakci, “Thank you.”

“I’ll be honest with you, I’ve never had anybody do that to me or I’ve never seen that when I was playing,” Bicakci says. “It’s kind of refreshing.”

Caton could have gone into a shell years ago.

But the 18-year-old, now West Ranch High graduate, chose not to.

He’s an Eagle Scout, the highest rank attainable by a Boy Scout, and a future student at Brigham Young University.

He was a two-sport athlete at West Ranch High, and is a church-going, outgoing, thankful son and brother.

Caton was also a mentor at West Ranch High to students with social issues.

A voice, in a way, for the voiceless.

Yet it’s Caton’s voice that could have limited him.

Caton stutters.

The following is a paragraph from his college application essay:

“I have been in speech therapy since third grade and have learned to adapt and live with my speech impediment. Rather than shy away from public speaking, I instead choose to speak, and look forward to speaking publicly for a church talk or speaking before my classmates. Speaking freely to others allows me to prove to myself and others that just because I am slow in speech and have stuttering blocks, I do not allow it to hinder me in my life.”

Shells don’t exist in Caton’s world.

“I didn’t want to do that,” Caton says on his refusal to hide from his issue. “I wanted to talk to people. I don’t like to give up on anything. I want to push past and serve. In my (future) mission for my church, I’ll have to talk a lot. I thought I should do it now. I like to talk and be with people. It’s more fun if I can talk than not talk and be scared.”

Kids don’t tease Caton.

They haven’t.

Not since the third grade.

“I remember when he was in third grade playing handball, and he came home and told me the kids were saying, ‘You’re ou-ou-ou-out,’” says his mother Laura Torgesen. “But he was such a good athlete that he always beat them.”

So they stopped.

Caton played four years in the West Ranch basketball program, the last two on the varsity.

He played power forward/center behind likely future NCAA Division I power forward/center Ako Kaluna and saw sporadic playing time.

And that brings one thing he never used his voice for — complaining, in any sport.

“I didn’t have to ask him to do something, he just did it,” Sparks says of his one season varsity middle blocker, who was a key contributor to the team’s run to the CIF-Southern Section Division II semifinals. “He never complained no matter if things were going great or horrible. Not only do coaches love him, but his teammates love him as well.”

Caton was awarded the volleyball team’s “Coach’s Award,” which recognizes sportsmanship and kids who best exemplify the team’s spirit.

He was the same kind of player for the basketball team.

“Me as a coach, I see the little things. After every timeout, he’d be the first one out there giving high-fives,” Bicakci says. “Although it’s a small, minor thing, he was always very positive.”

Caton made an impact on fellow students as well.

Beginning in the ninth grade, he began to take speech therapy from West Ranch High teacher Fran Levy.

Levy was so impressed by his gentle ways, confidence and kindness that she invited Caton to become a student mentor for a group of other students with social issues.

The group met before school and Levy says Caton had a special way with them.

“For some of the students, you could tell he was the favorite mentor,” Levy says. “There was almost like an innate kindness in him and he reaches out his hand to everyone.

“He tries to get the voiceless to open up. I’ve seen him in groups. He’s the one who asks the questions to those who don’t say anything so they talk to the group. He’s the one who encourages.”

On top of that, he’s an achiever in the classroom. Caton graduated with a 3.7 GPA.

Stuttering couldn’t stop him.

But what it revealed was his determination.

Over the years, when Caton has stuttered, people have jumped in and helped him finish his words.

What they didn’t know is it wasn’t helping him.

“We don’t want someone to finish it for us,” Caton says. “I want to do it and do it myself. I can get through it.”

It’s that sort of quality that makes people admire the college freshman-to-be.

Torgeson tells a story of Caton’s teachers and how at West Ranch, teachers choose a senior to take out to lunch each quarter.

Three of Caton’s five teachers chose him.

Why?

“They said because he says ‘Thank you,’ everytime he leaves class,” Torgesen says.

661-287-5529

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