Life is Funny and Sports are Weird

WKGS2In Worthington Schools we believe in co-curricular participation for our students.  We know that students who are connected to their peers in a positive way do better academically and emotionally.  In addition we believe that competition through sports is a way that students can gain some of the critical life skills they will use for success in their future.  Students learn grit, perseverance, leadership and how to work hard for a goal.  Sometimes the parents learn some things along that way too…

After a difficult loss for the Kilbourne girls varsity soccer team on Tuesday of last week  Worthington Kilbourne parent Pete Crozier was reflecting on the nature of sportsmanship, leadership and lessons learned through athletics.   I love Pete’s perspective and he gave me permission to share his thoughts.

Things I’ve Learned from My Kids

Chapter 87: Life is Funny and Sports are Weird by Pete Crozier

How many youth sporting events have I attended as a parent?

Some quick math: Sarah and I have 4 kids. Multiply that times 50 sporting events per kid per year times maybe 25 years of cumulative participation. That equals 5,000 games, matches and meets to which the kids have been chauffeured, 5,000 uniforms that have been washed (thank you, Sarah), and 5,000 water bottles that have been filled up (okay, maybe 4,990 … sometimes we forget).

That doesn’t include the thousands of practices to support those games, matches and meets. Or the piano lessons and band concerts and Girls Scouts’ meetings and Indian Guides’ campouts and ballet performances and talent shows and … and … and … and …

Believe me, I’m not complaining. It’s what I agreed to when I signed the Middle Aged Guy, Suburb Bubble, Contract of Life. It’s all soccer cleats and softball treats, basketball hoops and cross country loops, volleyball matches and batter’s box scratches.

Each game within each season within each year has peaks and valleys. Glorious comebacks and inglorious failures. Sunny spring evenings and blustery winter afternoons.

If you’re like me, parents of other players sweep in and out of your life based on the sports season. “Hey, how you been?” (You don’t say his name because you can’t remember.) “How did she do at lacrosse? (Again, you have no memory so no mention of his daughter’s name. You just hope like hell that lacrosse is right.)

Through it all, we hug our kids after the game, smile and say, “Great job. I am proud of you.” And we mean it.

But never more than last night.

Our daughter, Maggie, is a senior at Worthington Kilbourne High School. She was honored to be named one of the captains of the soccer team this year. She’s not extremely vocal. Not a screamer. Not a rah-rah cheerleader type.

Leader by example, I guess.

Last night, her team played Dublin Jerome High School. Jerome is a perennial top team and we all knew it would be a tough game. By halftime, Kilbourne was down 6-0 … and it wasn’t that close.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with soccer, losing 3-0 is an absolute blowout; a crushing defeat. By that measuring stick, losing 6-0 at halftime, well, that can make or break a season.

As a slight drizzle fell, the parents in the stands continued to be supportive, cheering each girl by name as they came off the field. “Great job, Ashlyn. Keep fighting, Emma. Nice run, Courtney.” I’m proud to be part of this pack of Wolf parents.

I watched the halftime team huddle. Coach Meghann stood confidently in the middle of the circle as the girls raised their hands to speak. Respect. There were no tears. There was no finger pointing. Hands and heads held high.

The center ref blew his whistle for the second half and I saw the girls smiling as they came back to the bench. One girl jumped on Eleni’s back, piggyback-style, laughing.

With all the weight that we parents put on youth sports (guilty as charged), my God, they are just kids playing a game, piggyback-style, laughing.

Note to readers: As you scroll through this post, you probably think this story is going to lead to an epic comeback and a legendary win for Kilbourne. Sorry, no.

It’s much better than that.

The second half began and the seventh goal was scored.

A few minutes later, the eighth.

Then it happened.

As the referees retrieved the ball and walked from our goal to the half line to start once again, Maggie sprinted the other way. Against traffic. A salmon swimming upstream. She ran to our goalie and said, “You got this. You made a good decision on that play. We’re playing better and we have your back.”

Her instinct was to show compassion. Empathy. Caring for a friend. A simple gesture that embodies a grander purpose.

Leadership through love.

I wish I could take credit for it. But that’s all her.

When the final horn sounded, Kilbourne had lost 10-0. Both teams had played physical, but clean. The refs were not a factor.

We have always taught our kids that when an opponent plays dirty or is beating you so badly you want to quit, don’t push back or trip or hold them out of vengeance or frustration. Instead, be faster. Be stronger. Be smarter. Learn.

We’d rather they lose with honor then win through deceit.

Play hard. Play by the rules. May the best team win.

Last night, both teams played hard, both teams played by the rules and the best team won. Learn from it and move on.

After the game, I told Maggie that it’s easy to lead when things are going well. True character is revealed in times of adversity. Champions are not defined by wins and losses, but rather by effort, integrity, and how they treat other people.

I couldn’t possibly be more proud of these coaches or players.

On Tuesday, August 30, 2017, the Worthington Kilbourne Girls Soccer coaches and players showed grit with grace, resilience with respect, and determination without defeat. The final score is not indicative of this team, these coaches or their expectations for this year. Sometimes the other team is just better.

I am certain Maggie will walk away from this year more prepared for whatever comes next in her life. As parents, can we ask for anything more than that?

She will look back and know that the greatest win she ever had was in defeat.

Like I said, life is funny and sports are weird.

The 5,001st game is on Tuesday night. And I can’t wait.

I might even give Sarah a piggyback. Laughing.

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