One of my former students reported to me recently of having witnessed a high school football game in which both teams engaged in “dirty play,” resulting in serious injuries. I hear of those kinds of events from time to time, and have personally witnessed a few (very few) in my 35 years of work in public schools.
When I hear of, or witness, these kinds of events, it makes me thankful for the coaches who coached me, the coaches who coached under my direction, and the coaches who coach the students at my current workplace (Guthrie CSD, Guthrie, Texas). All of them understood/understand clearly that athletics is an extension of the educational program that is responsible for teaching students powerful lessons about life.
Here are some of the lessons I learn(ed) from those influential athletic coaches in my experience:
- Wins and losses both come our way; we always “lose” when less than our best effort is given.
- Accolades, both team and individual, tend to follow successful teams.
- EVERY person on a team is important and has a critical role to play (even if they rarely get in the game).
- Being on a team necessarily means sacrificing much personally, in the pursuit of a worthy and common goal.
- Cheating in order to win negates any adulation that may come with winning.
- When wins come (as they will), they should be embraced with modesty.
- When losses come (as they will), they should be accepted with dignity.
- The real value of athletic endeavor is in the journey, the shared pursuit, work, sweat, blood, tears, and laughter.
- When faced with the choice of doing what is “right” or winning, do what is “right.”
- Opponents are to be treated respectfully, whether in winning or in losing.
- Trophies begin gathering dust as soon as they are won.
Athletics ONLY belongs in our educational programming if it is teaching those kinds of lessons.
I am saddened and sickened when I hear tales of cheating, intent to injure, gaming the system, and other “dirty playing,” with the sole intention of winning.
I am humbled and honored to have worked with and played for so many coaches who understood that they were teaching students/athletes/me to
abide by the rules,
play my team role well,
and get a little better.........every day..........on purpose.