If you’re a regular here, you probably already know I live in a little town just west of Houston. Houstonians might call us a suburb, but we’re fond of our independence. You may also know that my son plays on the freshman football team at his school. Or I should say, he plays for one of the freshman teams–there’s two. The “A” team consists mostly of boys who have been playing football since pee-wee league and/or are naturally gifted athletes. The “B” team consists of everyone else. My son is on the “B” team, which suits him just fine. He told me before school started that he would rather be a starter on the “B” team than a bench warmer on the “A” team, and that’s exactly how things have worked out. And did I mention that his team is 4-0? No? Well then, his team is 4-0.
Texans take their high school football very seriously–some more than others. The high school team to beat in our district bears the same name as our town, and it is extremely rare that anyone ever does–beat them, that is. From their freshman squads to their varsity team, they regularly beat their opponents by 50 points or more. It’s not enough to win, their philosophy demands that they crush their opponents. If your son’s not a starter, he may as well be the water boy. He’ll get about the same amount of playing time.
I’m not a fan of that philosophy. Oh, I’m not one of those mamby-pamby parents who think that everyone’s a winner and a kid should get a trophy just for showing up, but what kind of life lessons do we want our kids to take with them as they move on to adulthood? That winning is everything, no matter how you play the game? Maybe it would better to teach them that winning is important, but how you win (or lose) will speak volumes about what kind of leader, what kind of person you may become.
The following is an excerpt from a letter sent to the head coach of our team from a parent whose son played on the opposing team last week. The team he’s referring to isn’t the team my son plays on, but the coaches are the same for both “A” and “B”. The fact that this was “A” team’s first victory of the season adds weight to the content of the letter (I’ve taken out specific names, but the rest is word for word):
I know you are busy getting ready for your big game vs. our varsity tomorrow night, but I wanted to send you a quick note to compliment your staff on how they handled the Freshmen A team game last night.
Your Freshmen squad scored at will and logged 24 points to our zero, and it probably could have been a lot worse…our team ran back the opening 2nd half kick-off, and at that point your coaches could have come back with that, “well I show them mind set”…but instead they continued to play their 2nd team and move their regular starters around.
The final score was 36 – 24, with your team kneeling the ball on the one yard line as the clock ran out. So because of the class displayed by your coaches, our boys could walk off the field with some dignity.
And as I football zealot, I know your team could have put 60+ points on the board if they wanted to.
Good luck the rest of the season and I hope your team wins every game…well, except for the one tomorrow night.
I’ve never been much of a football fan until my son started playing last year, but I am now convinced that team sports in general and football specifically can teach kids invaluable life lessons they will carry with them always. Perhaps the least of which is about winning.