I’m a big sports fan. Always have been. Always will be.
Sports have been a major part of my life ever since I can remember. I started playing golf at age 5, ran my first track meet at age 9, started playing basketball somewhere between those ages and played Pop Warner football also at age 9.
Sports has never left me.
My son played high school soccer, basketball and baseball. He didn’t play a lot of baseball but was more on the team to be a part of the team. He really didn’t mind not playing. His thing was soccer and basketball. All I wanted him to do was give every ounce of energy while playing and just play the game, leaving the rest of the garbage to others.
My daughter played volleyball, basketball and softball. Volleyball was her favorite by far. She loved the competitiveness of those sports because they all had different challenges. In volleyball, her challenge was to serve 100% for the season. Not the easiest thing to do, but that was the goal.
She missed her first serve of the season. Being dad, I felt bad for her because that goal was gone. Also being dad, I tried hard not to laugh, because it was the first serve of the season. She finished the season at right around 98%.
That’s the essence of sports. Failure.
She failed at reaching her goal on the first serve of the first match of the season.
Everybody fails when playing sports. Some more than others, but no one is exempt from the feeling. And we treat it like it’s the end of the world. It’s not.
I loved playing basketball—being the point guard, running the show and just being on the court. That was until I wasn’t. The first game back from Christmas break my senior year in walked an official I didn’t like, and the feeling was mutual. We’d been butting heads for four years and, of course, being a teenager and a stubborn one at that, I knew I’d eventually get the best of him.
I was guarding someone and stepped out of the way for him to go by me, trying not to foul him, and I was whistled for my fifth foul by said referee. I gave him the international sign of being No. 1 and I got my behind booted out of the gym.
Until the day she died a little more than seven years later, I had never seen my mother madder at me than that night when I stepped foot inside the house. Saying she was livid doesn’t do it justice. Mind you, my parents had divorced and me and little sis were living with mom.
My mom talked about my attitude, my short fuse and just let me have it. And then she saved the stinger for last: Two guys were sitting in front of her, not knowing who she was, and one said something to the other about how I was raised. Her parenting skills were questioned for no other reason than how I acted. That hurt me, and I can’t imagine what it did to her.
I was subsequently kicked off the team and had to be on my best behavior in order to be able to run track. I obviously had zero intent of hurting my mother that night. But that was the bottom line.
Our kids are going to fail and sometimes in front of large crowds. They’ll miss a crucial free throw. Throw a crucial interception. Hit a crucial tee shot out of bounds. Miss a serve, strike out with the bases loaded, false start, or miss a penalty kick. They don’t do those things on purpose. It happens because that’s sports.
Everyone has failed at sports, including Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Serena Williams, Alex Morgan, Lindsey Vonn, Katie Ledecky, Pete Rose, Rod Carew, Tom Brady, Emmitt Smith, Rafael Nadal, Danica Patrick … and the list goes on.
No one likes to fail, but it will always happen. We will survive it and, as Annie sang, “The sun will come up tomorrow.” I believe kids kick away losses and failures far easier than parents and other adults.
It’s still a game. It’s still a lesson learned. It’s still a way to be better tomorrow. The windshield is bigger than the rear-view mirror for a reason.
I’m working on a story for next week about the lack of officials in high school sports, and I’m focusing on soccer. Those same officials will make mistakes, just like our coaches and kids. They will miss calls, just like kids miss assignments. Neither wants it to happen, but it does. They will make bad calls and, believe it or not, they will make good calls. Leave them alone.
There are a handful of reasons why officials hang up the whistle, the biggest, by far, is the verbal and physical abuse they receive. They don’t deserve it. Officials are not there to be our personal dartboards. ￼