They shook hands and “good gamed” the other team, then filed off the court to the corner with their coaches. Their smiles were visible from the other side of the court as we parents made our way from the stands.
We stood waiting against the gym wall as the teams for the next game began warming up. The doors to the gym opening and closing continuously, and with it, a constant burst of chilly air.
Their coach wrapped up his post-game chat with the girls and they came rushing over. Parents took turns congratulating the girls and telling them what a great job they did. We high-fived as many of the girls as we could and made sure to let them know what an awesome game they played. Jackets and coats were forced over their sweaty little bodies as they fussed about being hot, while parents reminded them exactly how cold it was outside.
We made our way across the parking lot, where high fives continued as families found their cars. One by one, we streamed from the parking lot, each turning the same direction … toward home.
“I’m sorry we didn’t win,” Mayhem said, with a tone that seemed to be questioning her own feelings.
I could tell right then, she was conflicted. I knew she had it in her mind that she wanted to win, but I also knew that having never played a team sport, she wasn’t sure what playing in a real game was going to feel like either. So I asked her how it felt to be on the court, during a game.
She didn’t even have to think before she replied, “It was SO MUCH FUN!” and then quickly added, “but we didn’t win.” Which was then immediately followed by, “And I can’t wait until the next game! … Do you think we’ll win the next one?”
We spent the rest of the drive home talking about what a fantastic game her entire team played. And how much each person had improved in the weeks since they began practicing. We talked about winning. And losing. But mostly we talked about having fun and how big the smiles were on the girls faces after having played their first game. The score didn’t matter, because they had just learned what it was like to truly play as a team. They now understood that there would be another team working against them and they were going to need their teammates.
The conversation continued throughout the day, with Mayhem almost seeming to be checking to make sure it was OK that they didn’t win. By the time we were tucking her in at night, we had assured her that losing is part of playing the game.
After we left her room, she got up and wrote me a note:
Yes, I did tear up a bit when I read it.
This kid is beyond excited to have one practice and two(!) games this week. She has it in her mind that winning would be awesome, but she has it in her heart that this is fun. And just so we’re clear, we totally believe in winning and cultivating a desire to win. BUT, we also believe in fostering a spirit of team, and an understanding of the fundamentals FIRST. Only time will tell if the seeds of this game take root in her heart, but for now, we’re happy to see her having fun and learning to work with a team.
If you need us, Keith and I will be the
loudest (he prefers I say) most spirited parents in the stands 😉