The Trophy

Before I start, a couple of disclaimers. I am not one who likes to start sentences with “Parents these days” or “Kids these days.” That kind of thinking, in my opinion, ignores some basic realities. The world really does change and smart people adjust to changing times. And while I might recognize certain patterns over time, I have no way of knowing if those patterns existed in previous generations. If not those patterns specifically, I suspect behaviors equally as apocalyptic to previous generations existed.

Additionally, memory tends to mold the past into what we wanted it to be. It’s inherently unreliable, no matter how much we believe our memories are news footage.

Finally, what’s the point of talking like that?

I prefer to take each situation individually. Like this one.

My son was in a soccer tournament this weekend. Anyone who has been there knows what that means – that’s all you do, all weekend long. Sometimes teams travel from out-of-town for the big ones. It’s a commitment: mostly for the kids but for the whole family.

It was a good tournament with some challenges, like poor parking and uncooperative weather. Being an outdoor sport, games shut down when there’s lightning. Officials blow a horn and the clock starts ticking, so the rule is that games are delayed for 1/2 hour from the most recent horn.

My son’s team made it to the championship round, playing three games to get there. The big game was scheduled with 37 minute halves but about 20 minutes into the first, storms came.

We all had to move to our cars and await the all clear.

A little over an hour passed and there was still lightning.

There were several matches on hold, I think all championship games. First they ruled that any game past half-time was over.

Then more lightning. The fields were soaked and weather radars showed another line of storms coming. The long weekend was getting longer. It’s getting past dinner time now and some of the teams had a couple of hours to travel ahead of them.

They called any game at any point final and cancelled the reset of the tournament.

Problem. My son’s game and at least one other were tied. What to do?

Assuming they only had enough trophies for one team per division, the officials and coaches flipped a coin to determine the winner of tied games.

My son and his U14 team won the coin flip and brought the trophies home. It was more a source of amusement than a sense of victory because an eventual win for them was certainly not guaranteed. Perhaps not even likely, although you never know.

The next day I checked the tournament’s Facebook page and, as I suspected, parents were angry. To be fair, the tournament rules don’t mention a coin toss, only that co-champions will be named.

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Worth it?


Parents were raging at the tournament officials, certainly volunteer parents who work hours and hours to put together a fun event. Maybe they got it wrong; if there is a complaint to be made, I’m sure there is a process to do so through club managers to governing bodies.

Parents were spamming the tournament page saying lots of things to the tournament managers that I wouldn’t want my kids saying.

And there’s the crux.

How to we teach our kids to look at controversy with empathy, at topics from more than one point of view if we refuse to do so ourselves?

How do we teach our kids the self-control necessary carry out a grievance in a respectful way if our own justified anger turns into a tirade on Facebook?

How do we teach our kids that people who disagree (or play on opposite teams) aren’t our enemies when we can’t handle a simple situation where we really have so little at stake?

And this moves to what I consider to be even more important points. There is a great opportunity that’s being overlooked here.

Why are these kids playing soccer anyway?  Just for the trophies?

I hope not. Always waiting for external validation is a recipe for disaster in life.

No stuff is going to make you happy. Learn it early, learn it often. Universal Truth.

A game well-played with integrity and honor should be the goal.

Parents, emphasizing the almighty importance of a trophy, undermine that goal.

Another important lesson, even if it’s trite – life doesn’t conform to our notion of fair.

Sometimes you can do it all right and things outside of your control (weather, tournament decisions) intervene and things don’t work out the way we think they should.

What matters is what we do with that.

What you do after you fall down is the true gift of participating in sports, I believe. Or at least the opportunity to unwrap that gift is. I despise injustice and hate to see my kids disappointed as much as anyone. But there’s a greater good hanging in the balance.

We need to let our kids learn the lessons, to unwrap the gift.

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