Sometimes these kindness stories fall into my lap, and sometimes I have to dig a little. The story this week is a combination of both. What I uncovered during my digging took an already great act of kindness (that had fallen into my lap) and turned it into a priceless conversation that left me with way more than I had expected.

Forum reporter Sherri Richards got a story idea from a friend who had seen it on Facebook. Sherri brought it to the attention of my editor, who thought it would be a perfect fit for this kindness column.

That’s how the story ended up in my lap, but because not everything you read on Facebook is true, I figured I had better make a few phone calls and do a little more digging.

My first call was to Teresa Lewis, who had originally posted the story online. Teresa explained the turn of events.

Teresa’s daughter, Tara, plays basketball for the Liberty Middle School Mustangs in West Fargo. Because of the population explosion in West Fargo, students who have been in class together since elementary school are now finding themselves in opposing colors on opposite sides of the court.

Last year, the girls all suited up together as Cheney Packers. But this fall, with the opening of a new school, the classmates were forced to become competitors.

Now hold on. If you’ve never been to an eighth grade girls’ basketball game, you may be thinking to yourself, “Really? Cut-throat competition at the eighth-grade level? I don’t think so.” Let me reassure you that a win is a win and all who play their hearts out want one, regardless of their age or sex.

Teresa said it was a weird feeling and difficult to figure out when to cheer because she knew so many of the girls on the court.

Even the Liberty coach, Chris Haugen, saw the dilemma. He is a physical education and health teacher at Horace Elementary, so some of the girls on the floor had once been in his classroom.

Coach Haugen decided to use this opportunity to teach his players and former students about true sportsmanship.

Before the game, Coach Haugen gave each of his players a flower. He asked them to walk across the court and hand it to a Cheney player while saying these words, “Teammates last year, competitors today, friends always.”

As the game tipped-off, many of the parents and players were still wiping tears from their eyes at this great act of kindness.

When I called Coach Haugen to ask about this series of events, he told me that he feels compelled to equip his students with more than the basics. He wants to help them develop character traits that will last a lifetime.

Then he shared with me 15 principles he has come up with to help kids remember what’s important in competition, in the classroom and in life. Now, at awards banquets, he only has to say the first word. The students have taken all 15 rules to heart.

Words To Live By

Chris Haugen, Physical Education Teacher, West Fargo Public School District

1. Play by the rules.

2. Give good effort.

3. Encourage yourself and others.

4. When life knocks you down, get back up and into the game.

5. Success is doing your best; win or lose.

6. Be humble in victory. Don’t brag.

7. Be gracious in defeat. Don’t whine or make excuses.

8. Be respectful of other people, even though they may not be respectful of you.

9. Share everything that is good, useful or fun.

10. True winners never cheat.

11. If you want to be good at something, practice hard.

12. Say you’re sorry when you hurt someone.

13. Look at people’s eyes when they speak to you.

14. Put things back where you found them when you’re done.

15. Say “Thank you” daily for the many blessings you have received.

I am so thrilled to know we have teachers like Chris Haugen leading the way for our next generation.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND, 58107.

Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is an author, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Bison Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday. You can also get a Daily Dose of Inspiration from Nicole at