A headline this morning caught my eye about a mob of Protestants in Ireland who beat a Catholic man to death over a soccer game. Vaguely interested, I went in to see it and found the article terribly disheartening. In place where sectarian violence has been all too common, this mob beat a man to death because their team WON. Yes, that’s right. They weren’t frustrated over a close game that they lost, they won and then celebrated by getting drunk and beating an innocent bystander to death.
It got me thinking about the hugely disparate experiences we have had with the Beans in sports this last year. We are currently winding down the T-Ball season (that would be baseball for the 5-7 crowd, it’s played by placing the ball on a stand (or tee) and hitting it rather than the traditional pitch of baseball, see illustration below). T-Ball has been a blessing in our family life in many ways. First, it gets the Beans out and actively moving around in the sunshine. That’s a bit of a rare commodity in grass poor, open space poor Amman. In addition, our coach this year (and ButterBean’s alone last year) is an awesome fellow. He is patient, caring, and an excellent teacher. He focuses on helping the kids learn the basics without focusing on winning or pushing them to pound the competition. In short, he’s the perfect T-Ball coach.
For those who have not experienced T-Ball, the goal is to learn how the game is played. The kids bat and run to first base. Those in the field catch and throw to first. Even if they tag the player out, the player continues to run all of the bases. This is so that they understand how the game is played. Outs don’t get called until you reach the ranks of baseball where the coach pitches the ball to the player (I think).
Contrasting this experience with soccer this last year, the focus was all on winning. These 5 year olds have no real idea how to play the game. The practices consisted mostly on drills on shooting and very little on operating as a team, learning the play the game, etc. Score was kept from the first game and a team like ours loaded with 5 year olds and first timers had pretty much no chance to win a game. The kids got out and played, but the focus was on getting the ball to the best player. So, how and when will they learn how the game is played? And more than that, when do they learn that winning isn’t everything?
So, lots of things set off in my mind by this article about the worst winners I’ve ever seen. We work a good bit on playing games nicely with each other, celebrating wins without rubbing it in the faces of the losers, and congratulating each other on a game well played. After an entire soccer season with kids who refused to shake hands with the opponents after a loss (ya haram), the Beans have actually been lining up their stuffed animals in facing lines and going down the line to say “Good Game” to each of them. I love the values T-Ball is helping them build. And I hope that we will be able to successfully instill that no matter what behavior they may see on the playground, winning isn’t everything. A game well played is of far more value than a win they cheated or hurt others to obtain…
Happy Sore Winners!