My son G-, 13yo, can’t seem to decide on a single sport. In the summer and autumn, it’s all about lacrosse, then when winter hits, he’s back to basketball as indoor sports seem a whole lot more pleasant when it’s 15F and windy outside. He’s played both competitively for years and we’ve been blessed to have good coaches who focus on winning, but also focus on the boys having fun and learning both sport fundamentals and general teamwork.
I can see this when my son’s team loses a game and instead of being in a foul mood, he’s still upbeat and happy to have played, analyzing his own play and lauding the exploits of his friends and teammates (and, yes, complaining about the referees or game officials, a constant refrain of athletes). To be fair, if there are bullies or rough players on the other teams, he’ll talk about them and about what that experience was like for him — more so in lacrosse, though, which is definitely a far more physical sport than basketball — but even then, he rolls with the game and enjoys it, win or lose.
Last night was the boys middle school tournament and as the host school, his team got to play two matches against everyone else’s one match per school. I was there for the games and worked the scoreboard for the championship match between the two teams in the league with the highest overall scores from the season.
We won both of our matches, and while I was a bit disappointed that G- didn’t get much court time, the coach did put him in for the last quarter, when I snapped this photo from the stands of him taking a free throw:
The game ended with us winning by only 3pts, and the championship game for which I ran the scoreboard ended with a 1pt difference between the teams, leaving me to realize once again that I much prefer a close game to a route, whether my team wins or loses. How much more exciting to watch a game where every shot really matters rather than one where it ends up 36:11 or similar, and the losing team really has no chance of catching up after a certain point in the game.
The “everyone’s a winner” mentality is a dumb change from when I was a kid, but there’s also been a very good change with the rise of the Positive Coaching Alliance. I watch this every practice, every game, and it’s startling to see the difference between the coaches who yell and berate their players for not being perfect and those that encourage their players to play better, be smarter and be more in the game. One team looks glum and angry most of the time, secretly disappointed with themselves, and the other team has a lot more fun, celebrating a good shot even if they’re still down 12 points. Without the positive coaching effort — and parents who are supportive in the stands! — I expect I’d be a lot less enthused about my children being involved in organized sports.
I didn’t participate much at all in sports as a kid, and now watching G- go to practices and play all these games against other teams, having fun and finding it a great social outlet, I regret that. Perhaps in my next life I’ll be more athletic as a child. It’s definitely worth fostering…
I’ve seen the long-term benefits of athleticism in my wife, a former track star in high school and college. I also recall my own battles with low self esteem and wish I had played more sports as a teen.
The participation trophy nonsense is hardly the path to a better sense of self, but proving your worth on a team and trying your best seems a far better bet. Glad to see your son is trying a variety of sports and getting some good (life) coaching along the way.