Grown men acting like little boys.
It’s not a pretty picture, but that’s exactly what happened recently during my son’s tri-county baseball tournament.
The boys look forward to the tournament all season, while the parents wonder, “When is this season ever going to end?” (The effects of sitting on hard, unforgiving bleachers four times a week has no doubt financed my chiropractor’s summer vacation.)
Sheesh. The things we endure for our kids. But I digress…
This tournament is a big deal. It’s the culmination of a long and hard-played season and a chance to show off the skills the players have learned and honed throughout the spring.
It’s usually great fun. But not this year.
Before the tournament, each coach is given a set of tournament rules to follow to ensure fair and uniform play. For whatever reason, this did not happen this year.
As a result, early in the tournament, one of the coaches, facing imminent elimination, decided to impose his own tournament rules (apparently allowed by the game’s umpire), which allowed his team to come back and win the game.
Since my son’s team wasn’t playing, I wasn’t at this game. I don’t know exactly what happened, but I heard it was ugly. Really ugly. The coaches – two police officers, no less – engaged in a heated exchange that overshadowed anything that happened on the field.
And that was only the beginning.
Soon, the “wronged” coach contacted all the other coaches in our city’s league, pressuring them to refuse to play any more games against the other city’s league. Chaos ensued.
And, our league officials decided to simply pull out of the tournament completely, which effectively shut down the whole thing.
I was so angry for so many reasons: The kids were penalized even though they had done nothing wrong. Grown men were putting their own egos before the interests of the kids.
And I was frustrated because I believe significant teaching opportunities were missed.
Perhaps the result of the game in question could not be changed after the fact, but this happens in sports all the time. A bad call or unfair enforcement of a rule allows the other team to win. It won’t be the first or the last time these boys will face this situation if they continue to play sports. They are looking to adults to see how to respond to these kinds of situations.
Further, the league officials could have shown the boys an example in leadership and conflict resolution by addressing the matter head-on and putting measures in place to eliminate confusion and make sure the remainder of the tournament went on without incident.
Unfortunately, the message to the kids was, “If it doesn’t go your way, scream and yell, then pick up your marbles and go home.”
Here’s a few other valuable lessons that could have been communicated instead:
1.) Do YOUR best. You can’t control what others do. The only person’s actions you can control are your own. If we’ve played fairly and to the best of our ability, we can hold our heads up high, even if the outcome doesn’t go our way.
2.) Confront problems and disagreements respectfully. You don’t have to be a doormat, but conflicts should be handled without disrespecting the other person.
3.) Own up to your mistakes. We all make mistakes. Even grownups. (Maybe especially grownups!) Admitting a mistake (not making the rules clear from the beginning) and then correcting the problem, is a skill our kids need to learn and will use throughout their lives.
Thankfully, as parents we have opportunities to communicate these lessons everyday, even when society is not. (Although it’s very helpful when it comes from the outside, too!)
In the busyness of life, it's easy to miss those chances. I've missed more than a few over the years. Now I ask God daily to open my eyes to teachable moments.
Yes, life is “foul” sometimes. But our kids will only thrive if we teach them how to stay in the game.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24