Friday, May 14, 2010

Raising our Children to be Strong and Decent

Yesterday, we had a match with a Catholic school and while the match went well - in that the players were challenged by skilled opponents - the interaction was very uncomfortable.

This school- notorious for this behavior -- was the most immature, inhospitable and rude that we have encountered.
While one explanation would be that the coaches exhibit this behavior and then the players model it, what I observed was far more off-putting.
It was, in fact, the parents who came to watch the match, that were loud, obnoxious and outright rude. I was appalled by the shouts against my players, the interruption of points and the overall need for the crowd to cheer uncontrollably for a player - over every point, regardless of the outcome of the point.

Any "outsider" to their religious sect can clearly see that in this situation is not healthy, productive or conducive to long term goals of respect, decency and independence.
I was very proud of my players who recognized these actions for the foolish ones they were and still did their best to play their matches. Each of my players played well, some in fact, played the best tennis of the season!

We arrived ready to play and were told that this team would be having "senior day" or a celebration for their graduating seniors -- before the match. This held up the match from starting and was a power trip that caused us to have to wait.

They had 5 courts and offered us the 2 furthest courts to practice on. When the matches eventually started, the told us that the 5th court was in fact - unsafe and they would not be putting the matches on that court!
This is one of 2 courts that they devoted to us to practice. The rules are clear that any obstructions or detriments to the court are supposed to be stated before the match. Apparently, they didn't feel that "before practice" was part of the rules.

Once the matches began, the opposing team used every stall tactic imaginable to dictate the pace of the match -- including changing uniform tops repeatedly, needing to get a vibration dampener for their racquets and having to break immediately and talk to their coaches. This was a choreographed episode - as all the courts did this routine.

Parents arrived and as they approached the courts, would holler and yell to signal to their children that they had arrived. They would proceed to "encourage" their child - and other players, if they knew them - all throughout the match. Sometimes the hollering would continue for 20, 30 60 seconds before the point could continue. One player on court 3, NEEDED the interaction with the spectators and actually demanded the reassuring calls, hollers and attention, constantly. A match that should have taken 30- 40 minutes took almost 2 hours! It was painful, abusive and unsportsmanlike - to say the least.

This school is notorious for these actions. The are also well known for the parents to behave in such a manner.
I find the whole situation rather comical - ironic if you will - that a Catholic School - who espouses religious wholesomeness and a Christian way of life would allow and encourage this type of behavior from their students and parents.

I also find the situation rather interesting, from a social point of view-- after all, what makes these people feel that they should behave this way? What Christian principals are they following? Would God condone their actions?
If God lives in everyone - are they aware that they were cheating God?
Their behaviors were nothing more than bullying tactics used by thugs.

Why, then do they do this? (It really doesn't matter why, but there is a sense of understanding for me to consider it.) They do this because they think it makes them win. To some degree they are correct. But, is winning a high school the end-goal?

Each person has to answer that themselves. For me as a coach, for me as a parent - the answer is a an easy "no" - winning is not the end-goal. Decency, a sense of fairness and compassion - these are the attributes that I want my children and my players to take with them in life. These are the attributes that make strong, productive individuals.

But, at the end of the day, it is not the winning record that matters - but if you can look back on your own actions and realize that you acted in a way that you know is appropriate.
Decency - the ability to do the correct thing - regardless of the circumstances. A far more difficult lesson to learn, than a forehand or a swinging volley.

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