by Gerald Steele
“What’s your family name? Myword?”.
The boy didn’t get it but his mother did. Some other funny remarks were exchanged.The atmosphere was changing. Good things were happening. We were all laughing. It was fun!The game started. As before, the opponents started pouring in the goals but it was different. Our boys had been uplifted. By a silly tent? Wrestling with a collapsible bench? By a few tired old jokes? By the mother, who before she left us, remarked that we were a great, fun bunch and that she would be rooting for our lads.My lads were cheering on their team mates. They were chanting. They were sitting on the bench. I had been asking them with increasing frustration to do so all day and the previous evening. They were watching the game. They were commenting on the game. Where there had been tears and frustration earlier there was now laughter and fun.
We lost the game, handily, but we had kept up our spirits and as we held the opponents off in the 2nd half, conceding no goals we, even claimed a moral victory of sorts. This was, in large measure, due to a great effort from our 2nd half goalie. That same goalie had wanted to abandon his position earlier in the day when he had given up a few goals.
At the end of the game the boys, and the coach, were much happier than they had been an hour earlier. They atmosphere was positively jovial. What had looked at one point to be an unmitigated disaster turned into a positive experience.
Now, I thought, my boys are winners! They will profit for the rest of their lives from the experiences of that 24 hour period. The losses, the disappointments and the tears will pale in comparison to the jesting, the laughter, the joy, the daftness, the lessons learned.
They have started to learn that winning is not about beating an opponent. No, the one to beat is oneself. It is about learning and growing. It is about shedding silly notions about competition. It is about realizing that the true competitor does not worry about being better than the next guy. No, the true competitor concerns himself with being better this week that he/ she was last week. And, experiencing the sheer exuberant joy of play and competition.
It is about developing. And, that is what my wee boys were doing over that 24 hour period.