I’ve always said that I’m not raising children, I’m raising people to become responsible, self-sufficient adults. I am trying to give them everything they need to function in society and to be good people.
My oldest boys play football. It is as much a part of fall as leaves floating to the ground. It is part of who they are and there are a lot of things I love about football.
It teaches them to work as a team. It teaches them discipline and hard work. It teaches them to hold their heads up when they lose and to try again.
But there is a downside. There are politics and parents and parents vs. coaches and parents vs. each other. And sometimes I’m as much to blame as another. It’s shameful, really. They are just children and it is just little league.
Most of our Saturdays are currently filled with all things football, and this last Saturday was no different. But something was off. The coaches were confused and frustrated (via my observation only), and the kids were frustrated which in turn led to the parents being frustrated.
And then it rained. Not like a light sprinkle. No, it was a torrential downpour. The boys lost by a lot. They walked off that field muddy, heads hanging. Defeated.
But a midst the chaos of the game, there was a bright spot for me. A moment that outshone the politics and frustration. A moment that showed me the man my son will someday become.
My boy likes to make a good tackle. He’s never been afraid or nervous when it comes to that part of the sport. Mid-way through the game, he sacked the quarterback in a big way. He stood up and shook off the tackle only to find that the quarterback from the other team wasn’t getting up. He walked over, bent down and said something to him. Then held out his hand and helped him up.
That one moment makes me more proud than a winning score.
That one moment is what we, as parents and coaches need to emphasize. Not the win. Not the politics. Not the frustration.
No. It is teaching our children what to value. And when we value the wrong thing, we teach them that winning is everything. And it’s not. The most important thing we can teach our children is kindness and compassion, to be good people. To try hard and work harder. That failing is only one half of learning. The other half is dusting yourself off and trying again. That working together and being cohesive is stronger than having the best players in the whole wide world.
I am ashamed to say that I forgot that moment and was briefly caught up in the spirit of frustration exuding from our half of the field. It wasn’t until much later in the day that I was able to remember that moment.
But I will do better. And I will applaud my son for remembering the spirit of the game. And I will encourage other parents to see football for what it should be, a sport that teaches our kids about life. And if we do it right, it will teach them life lessons they will value and look back on as they become teenagers and then adults.