Integrity in Sports

My daughter had her last 2nd grade basketball game today. We played the other team from our school. This week going into it, I felt myself wanting to win more than anything. It was our home turf and I wanted to show that I was a coach who brought our kids to a higher level of basketball.

I don’t like the feeling of wanting to do something to please people, or doing something with others opinions in mind. Because of that, I spent the last week evaluating and reflecting my feelings and my whys. The root of my problem was pride.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I am a competitive person. Aside from watching our kids play sports, our family spends a lot of time watching other sporting events and playing games together when we can. I also don’t think it’s bad going into a game wanting to win. But I wanted to keep in perspective that this is 2nd grade basketball. Kids genuinely get worn out of sports more and more and I think it’s because we forget that.

I also didn’t want to make their game about me. The girls can show improvement without winning. I often think character is better learned in the losses and hard times than if you are always ahead and never experience some heartbreak. Guess what? We didn’t win. Guess what else? I couldn’t have been prouder.

I’ve always told the girls to give 100%, which they did. And they did show improvement because we played the same team at the beginning of the year and the point difference was smaller.

But more than anything that involves me, basketball isn’t all I want for my girl. No sport is. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment, but when I take a step back and look at the big picture, I have such bigger aspirations for my baby than having a winning 2nd grade season. I want her to be someone of integrity, love, determination, grit, and learning. Sports help teach her those things. Focusing on myself doesn’t. Craving a score more than improvement doesn’t.

Living a life all about yourself, or myself in this case, actually causes you to lose yourself. If you aren’t someone of integrity, even in secret, you have a hard time knowing what you stand for or why. I want to be someone who stands for the same principles regardless of the situation. And at the end of the game, my girl had her siblings still cheering for her more than any one else, she still has our unending love, she still has her friends, and she had a calm mother who wasn’t caught up in my own issues but able to be there for hers.

Sports are good thing. Sports aren’t every thing.

Some of my best memories from high school are from my time spent as an athlete.  I remember listening to Blue Clear Sky by George Strait religiously while riding with my best friend to softball practice.  I remember being so exhausted the weeks we had 2-a-days that all we could do was sleep in between.  I remember the accomplishment I felt once I got my spiking down in volleyball after staying late with a coach several days to work on it.  To this day, I love the feeling of complete exhaustion after a workout.

My husband was twice (and probably then some) the athlete I ever was.  To this day, his reflexes and how quickly he picks up almost any sport he tries still amazes me.  On our honeymoon we went to a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game.  Since we have been married we’ve played on coed softball teams and sand volleyball teams together.  We thoroughly enjoy sports.

So, for several reasons (many stated above) we want and even encourage our kids to take part in sports.  None of those reasons include them playing at a higher level or for them to be the super star of the team.  Now, it’s not that I don’t want them to succeed.  I do.  But more than the destination of “success” I want them to pay attention to the work and journey they will be on to get to that destination of success.

I want them to develop life long habits of being physically active.  I want them to know what it’s like to work hard at a skill in order to master it.  I want them to feel that feeling of accomplishment once they do master that skill.  I want them to feel the camaraderie that comes with being part of a team.

I do not, and will not, push collegiate or even professional level sports.  If my kids end up playing at that level, that’s fine and I will support them in every way possible if they do.  I do fear by constantly pushing that with all of our children, we have made a generation of “every one is a superstar” and forgotten that it is beneficial for kids to be just good athletes that support their team and help them where they can.  When we set up those kind of expectations for each child, we set them up for disappointment because not every one can be the all star.

Last point of this blog: if you really want to make sure your kid gets into college on scholarship push ACADEMICS! It’s really not even comparable the amount of academic scholarships you can get to the amount of athletic scholarships.