Saturday, November 3, 2012

Is it wrong? Am I bad person?

Coaching my kids' teams for the past 5 years, I ask myself the following 5 questions after every game:

1. Did my team have fun?
2. Am I proud of my team?
3. Did my team work hard and learn or accomplish something today?
4. Am I proud of the other team?
5. Am I proud of myself, that I did all I could to make this contest fun for all kids involved, from both teams?

You see, my father taught me that I would never be average.  He taught me that while it was "ok" for others to behave in certain ways, I wouldn't ever behave in the same manner.  He taught me about a higher way of living, without ever addressing it directly.  He made sure that I paid attention to inequities, and used my interaction to recsolve them.  He taught me that it really was my job to be aware of situations, and that it was my responsibility to watch out for my fellows.  I don't know why.  I won't get a chance to ask him anytime soon, why he did that...but, thanks Dad, I finally got it.

I've watched two games in the past week, that ended up 46-2, and 40something-1. One of those games was a loss for me and my team, and the other was a win for our team.

I'm stuck trying to see why I feel worse about the victory, than I do about the defeat.

I think it has to do with the 5th question I ask myself...and it makes me tremendously troubled, and saddened, that it might have been my father that caused me to ask that final question.  I'm troubled that other people don't seem to ask themselves that question, as coaches, or players.

What do kid's learn when they beat another team 46 - 2?  What exactly did they "win"?

I'm a very competitive person.  However, I want competition to be just that...evenly matched squads, meeting to test their skills, as an exercise of body and mind, at a game that has little consequence in their life. I am very comfortable with the concept of winning, and of losing...there's no true shame in either.

I'm trying to figure out exactly what the other team "won".    And, as I grow older, I continue to come up with more questions for myself, than I have answers to give to others.

When did the stakes become so high, at such a young age?

When did playing sports as a child, become so serious?

Where are the adults?  You know, the ones watching the playground, like at school, that kept kids' from playing unfairly...that split up teams that were clearly unfair.  Does anybody remember teachers telling them that fairly matched teams are more fun for everybody, because it makes the game more even?

How many points are enough?  46-2, 66-2, 86-2?

At how many points, does a coach turn internally and ask themselves "what am I accomplishing by beating this team so incredibly badly"?

I realize that I think too much, and I'll admit that fact..and that I take the little things in life too seriously...I'll own that as well.

Doesn't anyone hear their father's voice inside their head say "That's good enough, now call them off and let the other team learn how to play the game a bit"?

I do.  I go out of my way to.  I do it because my father taught me to...

If the love of Christ were to be gauged on the playing surfaces of children's sports leagues... would we feel spiritual then?  Or just on Sundays when we get to talk about taking care of the poor, and not the team that played "poor"?

"Does anyone know where the love of God goes, when the waves turn the minutes to hours?"

Sung by Gordon Lightfoot...ignored by coaches of children...coaches that believe a foot on the throat of a child does them good, somehow.

I've really not learned to be subtle, or not to come down on myself as hard as the situation deserves...if you read my blog, then you know I've personally been guilty of this very thing that's bothering me now.

I suppose that I may come down too hard on others as well, and while it is because I know they are better than that, I'll not make that an excuse for calling them out.  Those games weren't subtle either, and I believe the responsibility lies within the adults that coach them...who volunteered to coach them.

Am I proud of how I helped all of the kids out there today?  Or, did I help to beat the ever loving crap out of an 11 year it happen, and intentionally prevent mercy from entering a situation?

I left today wondering if it was anyone's birthday, on the losing team...  wondering if any of them are going back to broken homes...  I know I sent at least one girl home to a broken home... a girl that said to me two weeks ago, "This is the greatest night of my life, I scored a bucket, and for the first time ever...I won a game."  Don't all kids deserve to win a little...or at the least not lose their dignity along with the game?

You see, little things make big things.  Big people make little people.  And...unfortunately, Big Dickheads, make littler ones, waiting to grow up...

I have two rules in life;  1. Do your job, and 2. Don't be a dick.

These kids are 8, 9, 10, 11...they're kids, for Christ's sake...If you need to prove something, or test yourself...let me know, I'll get my five, you can have your five, and we'll meet anywhere you like...but, as an adult, I'll tell you'll only be fun for me, and your likely to get pissed.

I'll end with question #5...

5. Am I proud of myself, that I did all I could to make this contest fun for all kids involved, from both teams?


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

He may not have much...but damn...he gives it all...

I tend to fall on the under side of coaching and competitive discussions, and I've finally put to words where I stand on a couple of things...the memory of an old friend and my father drew me out to write this today.

I've struggled with the concept of competition for a number of years...which, in discussion we could split a room of little league parents and coaches, resulting in a small cataclysmic event in a short while.  

I was a hell of a competitor, and most will still tell you that I still am...This isn't about that competition...its about team competition.

The OKC Thunder slogan is "Team is One"...and a good one at that...I'm not a downer on slogans...but...

Team is something other than a slogan, and Trophies aren't things that just sit on shelves.

Team is about you, a picture of you, either now, or in the past.  And what came along with you through the winds of time. 

Team to me...well, that's what I've been thinking about.  Team is about a time with young men that are gone.  They're fat now, most of them, or most of us, anyway...anything but young, and the time has definitely passed us by.  Enough, though with my worthless nostalgia, and start with a little story:

You-shoot and Brick were two kids that played recently on a basketball team that I coached.  I name them appropriately, and imply no shame to them, only as a descriptive term and leave them nameless.  We had a non-competitive league, which I've heard other coaches remark about as developmental, or a feel good league.  Personally speaking, I'm a better player and a better coach than any of the men I've ever heard say such things.  I'm an aging athlete that has come to realize the value of elevating a human being through sports represents far more attainment than any all-star, or select team ever could.

Out team scored more points than a couple of others, but most days, we were on the struggling end of playing.  I was proud of the better kids on our team, because they learned, from me, that our team was about getting shots for everyone, including You-shoot and Brick [something I could have learned at a much younger age].  You-shoot generally wanted to find the most effective solution for the problem, passing to one of the better shooters...tremendously smart kid.  You-Shoot even took himself out once, saying he didn't feel well...until his dad made him admit that "the team had a better chance of winning if I sat down".  Brick, on the other hand,  learned the value system of our society at an early age describing his failure through the words, "I realize I won't score many points, but I want to learn to rebound and play defense".  His words betrayed him...he knew his failure would be imminent if he didn't score.  Defense and rebounding are concepts above our age group, though I laud his dad for working hard to show him more than scoring.  Brick and You-shoot struggled through most every game, but they clocked in, and played the games in practice and I made sure they had fun doing it.

In our final game, we continued our strategy...which drew ire from my assistant from time to time...understandably...I was aiming at a much higher picture, and honestly didn't feel the need to communicate that much about it.  We scored as many points as the other team and played hard.  We worked the ball around and as you can imagine, You-shoot and Brick both scored a couple of times, by creating their own shots... which helped us come out a few points on top (though we supposedly weren't counting).  Both teams and the people in the stands jumped out of their seats each time one of them scored...they knew those kids, it was a small league.  That's a trophy.  That's a team. 

Team is about my high school baseball team... a bunch of guys, some of whom couldn't stand each other, coming together for a common cause.  Team was Alan telling coach we were hitting soft tosses, while we were really playing football in the gym, (go figure).  Team was Aaron apologizing for something he had done before the whole team to keep from getting kicked off...and Team was us forgiving him and welcoming him back.  Team was us learning that our coaches contract hadn't been renewed...and that he'd be leaving at the end of the school year.  Team was the guys that didn't really ever get to play much, but when they did...the whole bench wanted to see them hit and score.  Team was goofing off on the bus on the way back from games where we lost horribly...or distracting the coach at the quick stop, so one of us could buy tobacco.  Team, in a single scene, was a guy who wanted to punch my face in a few days before, talking me under a fly ball that I couldn't see because of the lights...right underneath it.  I never saw it until it hit my glove.  

You can go see the trophy we won that particular night, a trophy we weren't expected to win.  I'm pretty sure it still sits down there somewhere.  I don't need to go see it, I lived it.  I know what it meant then, and I know what it means now...that together, we can accomplish things that we cannot do alone.

I hope that is what our kids are learning in sports.  It doesn't appear that way from the outside.  From the outside, it appears that most of the teams I've seen are working very hard to find 5 Kevin Durant's and Russell Westbrook's to fill the court, or 9 Josh Hamilton's, Albert Pujols', or Derek Jeter's to put on the field.  

Who do they stand up and cheer for, when there are no Never-shoot's, or Brick's on their team.  When each weekend is another weekend tournament for yet another trophy?  What exactly are they learning about being on a team with people of different skill levels?  Are they learning the value of sacrifice of personal glory to give that light to another?

I learned quite a bit about life in sports...when I was a kid.  Some kids need help scoring.  Some kids are better than you.  Some the same as you...but grew up in a broken home.  Some kids had awesome ability, but never had owned a glove before in their life.  Some kids I knew borrowed uniforms from kids the year before.  Some kids had more expensive gear than our school could afford, and they still stunk.

I grew up as a Warrior, from my high school, and while the school has continued to grow well past the size when I was there...I still keep up with it when I can.  I look forward to seeing the people that helped me become better....a better me.  Becoming a Warrior was trophy enough for me.  I suppose that's the trophy I want for my son for participating....a better him.  He doesn't need a ribbon, nor want one...he keeps his little trophies, but doesn't really care for them much.  

I suppose I'm not asking for non-competitive sports...I think I'm asking for coaches that compete at coaching their kids...gauging their win / loss record on how far each kid progresses not on games won or lost.  Focusing on the kids..asking them, "did they have fun?  real fun?"  Teaching them to have fun when they lose.  Nobody goes undefeated forever..that's rule #1...and every coach should make it their mantra to make sure that no kid ever goes 0 and forever.

I got on this thought from a man known as Old Ben Parker...who once said to me, "Scotty, that boy ain't got much out there, and he's sure funny to watch....but, damn, he gives it all, every shot."

Of course he was talking about a father of four at an old man's alumni game...but I think he was talking more than just basketball....miss you Ben.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Blue..............................and pink

I shook your hand.  I'd have kissed your lips gladly.  I'm a married man, but it wouldn't have wife would have kissed you too.

I was with the Senior Vice President of Sales and Business Development.

But he couldn't hear.

He bought the tickets.

Though he couldn't see.

I was in your world for a few minutes tonight.  You welcomed me as a long lost brother, waiting to see me home again.

I was alive.  Again.

You were older than I thought.  But beautiful nonetheless.  I shook your hand.

You gave me more than you could imagine.

You gave me my God back.

You were only a part of the show...a mime...bangin on your drums...dancing...reminding me that I was alive once again.  I'm not sure what language you spoke, but I got it....deep within me, something moved...again.

The Three opened the world as they do many nights...bringing lights, color and sound...serving as tour guides for those that would go...and playing a show for those that won't.

I saw the Blue Man Group tonight.  As I promised a friend I would, the next time I was in Vegas...on their home turf.

I can't even describe to you what it was like for me, save that I found something I'd lost, and had Toodles losing his marbles.

My good friend, I think you knew I'd find it.  I can't stop crying.  I just can't, I don't want is so much fun.

Few places in this world speak my language, and it seemed that I'd forgotten it myself.  But, I found it.  It found me, however you want to put it.

What I saw in the Pink Drummer, I don't even know.  I kept asking myself, why am I watching them, but looking at you.  They were the show, and they were awesome...maybe it was that get to live in that world...being a part of my temporary.

I mumbled a prayer before it started...something about worship, because I see God in places others don't...and it was heard.

If you are ever in Vegas...the Blue Man Group won't do you wrong.

Even if you don't speak the language.

I asked my colleague if he liked the show..."Yeah, it was a bit odd and sort of different, what'd you think?"

"They speak my language."