Beatitudes of my life

Being grateful for everything in my life…. no matter what…

A story with an unhappy ending… April 28, 2012

Filed under: Lacrosse,Parenting,Sports — beatitudesofmylife @ 7:08 pm
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Be forewarned… this is a story without a happy ending.  As much as I wish for a better ending, this is not possible… and all this disappointment is because of one man.  Let me begin where all stories should begin… at the beginning.

My older son, D, started playing lacrosse in his junior year of HS.  His brother had been playing the sport for a few years and had truly found his sport.  E had always been a natural athlete, but this sport just fit him to a “T”.  As a result, D decided to try his hand at the same sport.  He loved it, but he always had to work harder to pick up and master the skills that seemed to come naturally to his younger brother.  Where this could have created a great deal of jealousy, my boys seemed to use it as a bonding point.  They would discuss different ways of stringing a stick, debate offensive and defensive strategies, and were able to enjoy each another’s achievements without allowing it to create an antagonistic relationship between them.  They have always been each other’s biggest cheerleaders and for that, I will always be incredibly grateful.

When D  was a senior and making his college selection, he had narrowed his choices to two very different schools.  He was making the choice between a large in-state public university where he could be part of the marching band OR he could choose a small private out-of-state college where he had the opportunity to be a Varsity athlete.   He thought long and hard about this choice, but ultimately chose to go to a school where he had the chance to be a varsity athlete.  Having him choose my alma mater (the small, private, out-of-state school) made my heart sing, but the deciding factor for him was the possibility of playing college lacrosse… something he had never thought would be possible.  He was in heaven.

Playing lacrosse at this Division III college was a unique experience.  Since the college had only recently become a co-ed institution, their lacrosse program was very new.  When D attended his accepted students day, Coach D was the head coach; a great guy who was energetic and positive.  By the time D began his freshman year, Coach D had stepped down (he had accepted a new position at his job and it didn’t allow him time to devote to being the head coach) and Coach F had taken over.  Coach F was another positive guy; hard on the guys but fair in terms of discipline and expectations.  Coach F remained for two years and then Coach M took over just before D’s junior year.

From a parent’s perspective, Coach M was a nightmare in many ways.   His behavior embarrassed me, as an alum, but the seniors begged parents not to complain.  They were concerned that if coach found out whose parents complained that there would be repercussions for them on the field or in the amount of game time they might see.  We tried to give him the benefit of the doubt… the college must have seen something positive in him when they hired him, right?  D actually played in a few games during his junior year… making it into 6 games when the score difference was large enough to justify his participation.  He moved to long stick after spring break that year and was as positive as ever.  He asked me to please not say anything negative regarding my impressions of the coach and I tried mightily to honor his request.

D’s senior lacrosse season had a rough start when Coach M didn’t play him in any of the Fall Ball tournament games.  By Spring, we were determined to see as many of his game as possible, since this was his final season, and traveled to a majority of his games, both on campus and off.  I had been the team’s photographer since D’s freshman year, so I made his schedule my priority throughout the spring.  Each time we saw a game, no matter the final score, D was consistently positive, focused, and determined…. even though he never got to play in the game.

Injury plagued D throughout his college lacrosse career.  He had ankle, shin, and knee problems that kept him from being 100% at times, but he never failed to participate to the best of his ability.  His determination to be part of this team, no matter the amount of playing time, was a constant source of awe for us.  He put up with so much and worked so hard to be a contributing part of the team that we, stupidly, were hopeful about seeing him play at some point during his senior season.

As the season came to a close, we were truly hopeful that we’d seen the worst that Coach M could offer… surely he’d recognize the contributions and dedication that D had shown for four years…  but it was not to be.

Senior Night versus Marymount University started out in grand fashion.  The boys played their hearts out and held the lead for the entire game.  Sadly though, Coach M decided not to include THREE of our seniors.  All these three young men had been part of the team for four years, enduring 6AM practices, only two or three days off for Spring Break each year, and then were snubbed on the single day that was to have been dedicated to their contributions.  It was maddeningly offensive to me, but my son’s focus was, as always, on the team.  He was ok with the idea of not having played, because they won the game.  I could only stand on the sideline and fume privately as both hubby and son pleaded with me not to make a scene.  I honored their request… as much as I resented the need to do so… but prayed that honor would prevail for my son and the other seniors on their final game, played this past Friday.

D’s final college game was played on Friday, April 27th… but D did not play.  They lost that game 9-3.   When one of the other seniors, who had made it into the game, asked Coach M to put all the seniors in for the final 2 minutes of the game, he was told to shut up.  D and one other senior never saw the field.    Sadly, the ONLY time D made it onto the field during his entire senior MLAX season had already come and gone; during the Salisbury game on April 7th, when they lost 29-1…. and we weren’t there.

I wish I could say that I was enlightened enough to look at this situation from a more positive vantage point…. however, I truly believe that there was no earthly reason why my son was not included in either his senior night OR his final game in a Hood College uniform.  My son has endured all the elements that God can offer just to play the game he loves… but his coach, who should have had the foresight to realize the lasting impression he was providing my son and his fellow seniors, couldn’t be bothered.

I wish I could say that this story has a happy ending, but it doesn’t.  D’s college lacrosse career ended with nothing more than a tongue lashing at the team by their coach.  What should have been his happiest game, was not to be.

I am filled with pride for my son and his fellow seniors for the class they showed in persevering through four years of hard work to earn college degrees AND participate in four years of varsity lacrosse.

This coach hurt my son… and I will NEVER forget…

 

 

The worst thing about sports can sometimes be the parents… April 1, 2012

Filed under: Blessings,Lacrosse,Parenting,Photography,Sports — beatitudesofmylife @ 6:58 pm

I just came back from a weekend of varying degrees of lacrosse.  It was all “college level” but I’m convinced, more than ever, that the worst thing about sports, and enjoying sporting events, can sometimes be the parents.  I’m all for following your child’s athletic endeavors… cheering their team on to victory… commiserating when referees and officials make calls you deem questionable… but that’s about the ONLY place where I agree.  Our job, as parents, is NOT to coach our children, if we are not the coach.  We are to be supportive… nothing more and nothing less.

Friday night, we were on hand for two club lacrosse games.  The first game was pretty tame… parents complained about calls that were either made or missed, depending on their point of view.  I was spared much of what was said… I’ve learned to plug in a single ear bud and listen to some “head banging tunes” while attempting to shoot the game from a photographer’s point of view.

That being said, the second game was a huge challenge for me.  I had my music going…  Drowning Pool “Bodies”, DMX “Where the Hood at” and “Ruff Ryders Anthem”, along with Fort Minor “Remember the Name”, Kings of Crunk “Get Low”, and Steve Aoki/Laidback Luke “Turbulence” were all shuffling through my playlist.  We were playing a traditionally rough team, but I was unprepared for a MOM to yell “make him sorry” when our goalie left his net to bring the ball into play.  A mom?  Really?  The rest of the game was equally frustrating.  Our parents were primarily cheering generic and positively focused themes of Poke check!… Get the Ball!… Go Hoos!, while the opponent’s fans had reached down and came up with “Hit Him!… Crush Him!… Get Him!  Thankfully, this was a blissfully short game.  Two running halves with the entire game completed in an hour.  I don’t think I could have taken much more that evening.

Sadly, I was in store for much worse the following day. The game I was shooting Saturday was a conference lacrosse game that was not expected to be a win for us.  We were hopeful for a “good game” against a historically tough opponent but I was truly unprepared for how bad things got over the course of the game.  The boys were putting forth, in my opinion, a valiant effort against a team that had blown them out in the past.  To be within a handful of goals by halftime was amazing and I was proud of the work done these young men.

What was most upsetting was when one of our parents decided to personally heckle and single out a player on the other team.  Seeing him sink to this level, in a college game, made me embarrassed to be on the same team.  Clearly, no one had ever stood up to him while his son was in HS to explain that this sort of behavior was neither productive nor helpful.

Youth and college sports are terrific places for our children to learn life lessons… what to do… what NOT to do… how to portray yourself in public… how to make your point without turning into a bully or using inference to try and turn others to your twisted version of reality.   Our children are watching us… they are watching to see how we handle situations and they will mimic what they see, especially if it’s shown to be an acceptable behavior.  If we yell at the ref, scream at players on the other team, or whine when we don’t get our way, doesn’t it stand to reason that our children will repeat this behavior and become our own worst nightmares?

Two weeks ago, I was unhappily invited into one such situation within our High School/youth program.  A disgruntled parent decided to voice their opinion to the coach…something perfectly acceptable within the confines of a private conversation.  The problem came when this parent decided to voice their displeasure to the entire team, coaches, and myself (the athletic director) while insinuating that they were not the only disappointed family within the program.   ” I know I am not the only parent concerned just the parent willing to express my concerns”.  After saying that they “respected what we are trying to do”,  the parent went on to complain that their team was being “set up for failure” and that they “do not have any chemistry as our opposition has pointed out”.   If a parent wants to voice this concern to a coach, I support that right.  When that same parent decides to call an entire program into question by complaining in a blanket email, I take great exception.  I was LIVID…

Over the next few days, there were some terrific messages that were sent out to the entire team… defending the coach, our program, our schedule, and our kids.  No one called this parent out for their message but everyone who took the time to respond did so by sharing the way they try to raise their kids.  Praise in public… reprove in private.  Wasn’t this part of what we were supposed to learn as kids…. so we could teach the same thing to our own kids when we became the adults?

I was blessed to have been placed in a humbling situation just after I got married.  We were watching a HS football game in Michigan and the kicker was having a hard time getting the ball off before being tackled by the other team.  I was feeling “above it all”, since we didn’t know anyone on the team, and thought it was a good idea to yell that they should replace the kicker… get some kid who could get the ball off… when a parent on the team told me to “shut up… he’s doing the best he can”.  Wow.. such a small comment but it had a huge impact on me.  I sat back, embarrassed for having been yelled at in public like a little kid, but I got it.  The kicker was doing the best he could… and if I couldn’t cheer positively, I wasn’t welcome to cheer at all.   After 24 years, the sting of realizing that I was being a verbal bully, even if that kicker couldn’t hear me, still remains in my head and colors how I see things today.

As parents, we have the ability to make their kids into sportsmen (and women) or into bullies.  As parents, we have influence over their kids that can help build or break a program.   As parents, we should all THINK BEFORE WE SPEAK/WRITE and ask ourselves…. is this message helpful or hurtful… am I acting in the best interest of my child… would my child be embarrassed if they knew what I had said/written?

Let’s all do our part to raise the game, whatever the game may be, to a higher standard than is currently in vogue.  Let’s teach our children how to be positive… responsible… respectable.  Free speech isn’t always free…. sometimes there’s a tremendous cost in how it affects our community.  Think, people, before you cheer.   Let’s teach our kids to build one anotherup instead of tearing each other down…

 

 
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