Sportsmanship

I woke up this morning and did a quick check of email. Since I quit working for organizations, I no longer dread checking emails and finding long chains of inane “conversations.”

But whatever I was going to write about vanished from my head after reading two reports from a soccer referee about examples of very poor sportsmanship in high school matches by a coach who is also a referee.

I’ve searched the Bible. There is very little about games and sports. Paul uses training for sports as a metaphor for trainig for the spiritual life. 

So, I’ll consider our actions in that light.

Whenever I read these reports or witness them in person as a referee, I have multiple flashbacks of utter chagrin about the many times I’ve acted about as childishly. My first two years as a soccer coach were highlighted (in my mind) by the times I yelled at the referees. Then I took a class and leaerned the Laws of the Game. Oops.

It may go with being introverted or touched by Aspergers or having a mom who had issues–but I tend to remember times when I acted poorly.

I wonder if others ever do that.

There was a report from a referee who was followed to his car in the parking lot by parents after a game last night passing along their judgement of his limited capabilities. There was a coach who yelled and screamed the entire game and then instructed his players to feign injury to try to delay the game (I suppose he must have been up a goal and wanted to find a way to not let the other team attack).

One of the pleasures I’ve had from my involvement with soccer for the past 30+ years is the development of young people. We’ll get kids at 13, 14 or 15. We teach them the Laws. We teach and assist them in learning how to apply them in a game. The kids must learn responsibility (boy if I’ve had one conversation I’ve had a hundred about showing up for your games and on time). They have to learn decision making. They develop confidence. 

I’ll teach an introductory course and then maybe not see the kid for 2-3 years. They grow up. Their confidence is obvious. We taught them life skills.

What are these parents and coaches teaching? How to blame others? How to cheat? How to take shortcuts? How to behave like children? I’ve seen 12-year-olds act more maturely than their coaches and parents at times. 

We forget. We’re each training for success in our spiritual lives. Sports is a metaphor. Some of us grow. Some of us don’t. Some of us look back at our lives and shudder–much like Augustine in his Confessions. But I would hope and pray that we all mature in faith and spiritual development.

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