By Sarah Bloom, Lifestyles WriterI could tell by the look on his face that he was getting angry. At the time I honestly could understand why he was feeling that way, but I was hoping he would be able to control it. With each additional bump, bang and fumble it was inevitable he was going to blow his top. Then, just as the referee blew his whistle and announced another foul on my son his last reserve broke and he angrily bounced the ball off the floor.
The scene I just described was one I watched play out at my son’s recent basketball game. Needless to say that after that game he got taught a lesson in good sportsmanship, but it was one that had to be handled delicately. As the enforcer I had to weigh my words carefully because I too had once been that hot tempered ball player.
I can’t even begin to count the number of times my coach reprimanded me for not controlling my temper on the ball court. For me it was so easy to get wrapped up in the moment, focusing all of my energy into whatever play we were running at the time. I liken it to having a cookie snatched out of your hand just as you are about to bite into it. You just want to turn around and wail on whoever had the nerve to interrupt your perfect moment.
I completely understood his frustration, but I also knew he needed to learn that controlling that frustration is all a part of the game. There will undoubtedly be games where you are certain the referees have forgotten that two teams are playing on the court or are convinced that they had left their glasses at home.
My son just couldn’t understand why certain fouls were called on him when he wasn’t even close to whoever was touched. At his age I guess it is still too much for him to grasp that everyone is human, even referees, and we all make mistakes from time to time. Since my boys started playing ball I have taught them to be aggressive because no one gets better without putting forth a full effort. But there is a big difference in being aggressive and being a bad sport. I have no tolerance for nasty attitudes and displays of ignorance. There are perfectly acceptable ways of releasing frustration other than throwing a temper tantrum.
Though I played many games during my school years there are a few that really stand out in my memories. One in particular was against Breathitt County and by the time that game was over we all felt like we had been beaten to a pulp. I would just about bet that if someone were to check that floor, pieces of the skin from my knees could still be found embedded in the cracks. We had never played against a team so intent on physically hurting us before. Our coach was furious and by the time that fourth quarter buzzer blared he had decided we would not play against them again that season. We were in no way being quitters, but where is the sportsmanship and fun in competing with a group of people who only had harm on their minds? The beauty of a good basketball game was totally lost.
There have been games where I cried either from joy or utter heartbreak. Games where I have laughed not only from a win, but from the companionship of riding home with a group of my best friends, but there were also those games where I learned a hard lesson on how to control my temper.
We were up against a “mountain” team one night and in no exaggeration they towered over us. Being the scrappers that we were, we dug in our heels and gave them a good run for their money. At one point I was under the basket trying to block out a girl two heads taller than me when I found myself hitting the floor. I had landed on my belly and when I tried to stand up I discovered that the same girl had taken it upon herself to sit on my back, just to prove that she could. We had been exchanging elbow jabs for the better part of the ballgame. Well, I could feel my McKinney temper boiling over and all I could see was red. I pushed her off of me and came up swinging. None of my blows connected and all I did was earn myself a spot on the bench for the remainder of that game. I had to sit and watch that girl play out the rest of the ballgame totally helpless to aid my team in any way.
As I was lecturing my son I felt more and more like I was staring in the mirror. Eventually I settled on pushing home the idea of being a good sport. I explained to him that everyone regrettably looses their temper from time to time, but learning from that mistake was most important. In the end it doesn’t matter if you win or lose. It won’t matter if the referees were on your side or if someone seems to have it in for your number. All that matters is having fun and nurturing the love of the game.
Have a great week and may God bless you all! Let God be your coach in the game of life and you will always come out a winner!