October 28, 2013
A wise man once said of football that playing it didn’t build character; it revealed it. Apparently this observation doesn’t just apply to the game’s participants but their parents as well. As some of you may have heard, the parent of a player on a losing high school football team in Texas has filed a “bullying” complaint against the head coach and the coaching staff of the opposing team. In the interest of full disclosure the final score of the game was 91-0, however both schools were of the same size and play in the same district. One is probably bound for the state play-offs and the other is just, well, bad. The coach of the losing team feels that their opposition did nothing wrong, and, in fact, the victorious coach did not try to run up the score, they ran the ball the entire second half and used JV and freshman players, but the disparity of the talent level between the teams was just too great. Unfortunately in our someone-has-to-be-a-victim society, admitting that someone is just better than somebody else is no longer a valid excuse, hence the bullying complaint.
In filing the complaint, the parent said that he just felt he had no other recourse in trying to help his son deal with his team’s margin of defeat. Normally, I would throw in some type of humorous aside here, but frankly, I find nothing about this situation remotely funny. In fact, I am shocked that any parent would feel that this course of action is the best way to help their offspring deal with any type of disappointment in life, much less the loss of a high school football game. Unfortunately, events like this are all too common in our society, and I think we are becoming increasingly poorer for it.
My marketing guy used to coach youth sports. He told me how the only thing he didn’t like about the experience was having to deal with the kid’s parents. On one occasion, he said a father gave him a videotape of the last game that the team had played. He explained that he made it to show that his son had only had a chance to run the ball eight times the entire game. My marketing guy thanked him for the tape and explained that since they had lost the game by about a million points and only had the ball for 16 plays, so his son had actually carried the ball half the time. He also pointed out that since the kids were playing 7-year old flag football that he was sure that the boy would have many more opportunities to carry the ball in his lifetime. I now coach my own son’s teams, and although I haven’t had any experiences like having to address parental video verified complaints, I must admit that I do tense up when one of them asks me, “If you’ve got a second?”
Obviously I’m a parent, but I often find myself wondering if my contemporaries, based on their parental desires to protect their kids from anything that may “damage their self-esteem” were raised that differently than me. I played sports, and even if my coach wasn’t all that good, I was told that he was the coach. I was to do what he said whether we won or lost. If I got a bad grade in school, my folks didn’t immediately call the teacher. They sat me down and told me that I had to work harder. I know, like all parents, mine never wanted to see me fail or be disappointed, but they knew that was part of life, and that the sooner I learned those lessons the better off that I would be. Whether a kid was bullying me at school or I had a science project due, my parents let me know that they were there to guide me, but that ultimately the ultimate solution to any issue I faced was on me.
So what lesson does the father who files a bullying complaint about a football game send to his boy? That you should always win and that if you don’t it’s always due to malevolent forces aligned against you? Folks, life is a contact sport and sometimes it rears back and punches you right in the mouth. Does it do our children any good to shelter them from the vagaries of life? Sometimes people just don’t like you, or even if you do your best it’s not good enough. And you don’t get points for trying. As parents, the benefit of our experience is that we can sometimes foresee a failure before it happens. Unfortunately, as in the case of the father in Texas, our job isn’t always to prevent it, but to be there after to guide our children through it. Sometimes life is hard, and sometimes it’s easy. Teaching our children to understand and deal with both is our responsibility, teaching them that there is always someone to blame for their disappointments and defeats isn’t.