Flock of eagles: Mingus Union boys tennis features four Eagle Scouts

From left: junior Travis O’Donnal, senior Brigham Peterson, junior John Valentine and head coach Larry Lineberry have all reached Eagle Scout. VVN/James Kelley

From left: junior Travis O’Donnal, senior Brigham Peterson, junior John Valentine and head coach Larry Lineberry have all reached Eagle Scout. VVN/James Kelley

According to the Boys Scouts of America, in 2014 6.01 percent of eligible scouts earned the Eagle Scout award.

Since it debuted in 1912, 2.01 percent of eligible scouts have become Eagle Scouts.

Becoming an Eagle Scout is so prestigious that the oft-quoted four percent stat spawned the title of an award winning book: “Four Percent: The Story of Uncommon Youth in a Century of American Life.”

So with six players on their roster, the Mingus Union boys tennis team would be lucky to have one Eagle Scout, right?

Actually the Marauders feature three Eagle Scouts on the roster.

“I’ve never seen it before, I’ve never heard of it before,” Mingus head coach Larry Lineberry said. “I know that as an Eagle Scout, myself, I was told at the time that only five percent of any Boy Scout nationwide ever reaches the rank of eagle. So that in itself is very rare and then three on one team and we had another last year that graduated.”

In addition to the three current players, senior Brigham Peterson, junior Travis O’Donnal and junior John Valentine, Lineberry and 2018 MUHS tennis player Crue Taylor are also Eagle Scouts.

“I think it’s really special because not everyone has the chance to be an Eagle Scout and those that do, it’s very, very hard,” O’Donnal said. “I don’t remember what the statistics are but only a handful of people that join scouting are able to actually become an Eagle Scout, so for us to have our coach as an Eagle Scout and a mentor and for us three to be Eagle Scouts is like one of the coolest things that a sports team could have.”

Starting at 0.04 percent in 1912, the percentage of Eagle Scouts didn’t surpass three percent until 1998 and didn’t surpass six until 101 years after the rank’s inception.

“Well it’s definitely nice because we all share the same core values and we try to live by those together so it really helps us establish a good sense of team other than just ‘oh we’re on a team, we’re playing together’ but also have core values that we’re supposed to live up to that we take an oath to live up to and so it really makes our character a lot better on the team,” Peterson said.

Plus Taylor, Peterson and O’Donnal hail from the same troop.

Valentine came from the Phoenix area but he said the Verde Valley Boy Scouts have been very welcoming.

“From my observation, there’s really strong boy scout troops here with really solid leaders,” Lineberry said.

The eagle Marauders’ skills and hard work have not only led to merit badges but success on the court. As of Apr. 4, they are Mingus Union’s top three singles players.

Peterson is No. 1, Valentine second and O’Donnal third. As a team, the Marauders are ranked No. 17.

Lineberry said they’re not afraid of hard work, knowing hard work leads to results.

“One of the reasons I stayed in tennis is that tennis kids are good kids,” Lineberry said. “We’re one of three teams in this school that their average g.p.a. is 3.5 or higher — there’s only three — and we’re one of them, and we’ve been on that list for several years, since I’ve been here. We’re just smart kids. It’s a pleasure to work with good, smart kids who have a work ethic, they listen, for the most part, and they want to get better.”

To become an Eagle Scout, applicants need to do things like earn at least 21 merit badges, provide references and do a special project in the community.

The Marauders said scouting has been a big part of their lives.

“My grandpa was a scout leader, my dad was a scout leader, my uncle was a scout leader, so we’ve always kinda had scout leaders and then once I found out my coach was an Eagle Scout and he was actually one of the people that were like helping me, like pushing me, ‘did you turn in your paper? Did you do this? Did you do that?’” O’Donnal said. “It’s definitely been a part of my life and a part of my family as a kind of life achievement to be able to be an Eagle Scout.”

Famous Eagle Scouts include Neil Armstrong, Steve Fossett, Bill Gates, J. Willard Marriott Jr., H. Ross Perot, William S. Sessions, Steven Spielberg and Dr. Robert M. Gates.

“These are good kids and it’s a real special thing to be an Eagle Scout,” Lineberry said. “When you are, you’re not ‘I was…’ it is ‘I am an Eagle Scout,’ it’s present tense all the way until the end of your life.”

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