Friday, September 25, 2015

Why I Love School Sports: Confessions of Non-Sporty Teacher

Yesterday, I went to not one but two school sporting events. The first was a soccer game at my son's small independent school. The Hill Top Hawks were playing the Stratford Friends Phoenix. The Phoenix were victorious, but it was a beautiful day for a game.

From there, we drove to the STHS Stadium where the Spartans played the Trojans in an epic (and very long) football game. Again, a beautiful evening to be outside and the band sounded great.

If you know me at all, you know that I am not sporty. Sure, I attempt to play tennis and street hockey with my kids, but I really don't have the patience to watch others play. While I have dutifully sat through many sporting events out of love, I have rarely paid much attention to the game. In fact, the only reason I knew the Spartans were winning last night was because the pep band played On Wisconsin each time they scored - and I heard that song many times last night.

Not paying attention to the game has enabled me to appreciate the extensive benefits for school sports. It took me a while to realize these benefits. I used to bring a book. But once I stopped reading, I started watching. And that is when I noticed all the amazing things that go on while the team is on the field.

  • Working toward a common goal. When you attend a game,  you typically hope someone will win. This unites the spectators and the team. This is a good lesson for non-school organizations and families. Work together. Cheer each-other on. High-five 'em when they win and pat 'em on the back if they lose. Either way, we are a team.
  • Pride. Watching the parents is the best. Sure, there are some out there who take the games too seriously, but most of them are just proud of their kids. I sat next to a mom at the soccer game who "talked" to her son on the field for the entire game. "You can do it, Ben. Pay attention, Ben." She was proud of his every move - the good ones and the not so good ones. "You should have seen him when he first started," she beamed.
  • Learning from defeat and success. I am a sucker for the underdog and so it always kills me that someone loses. Still, learning how to lose is important and so is learning how to win graciously. When they line up, shake hands and really mean it, it shows that they are learning these skills.
  • Opportunity. Sure, most coaches are going to play their best players. But not always. Sometimes you get to bear witness to someone's first goal, assist, save or great play. Wow.
  • Life happening. When you watch school sports, you are right up close. You hear the coaches and players. You see the cheerleaders get tired and hear the band's flat notes. It is real life happening - and it is beautiful. At last night's game, one of the coaches had his son on the sidelines with him. I know his son from the Challenger League. He might be the most reluctant baseball player ever and will frequently wander off the base. But he seemed to like football more. He drank lots of Gatorade and chatted with his dad. He wandered off a little, too, and the dad would leave the sidelines to go find him. Real life happening.
  • School Spirit. The Beach Boys encouraged us all to Be True to Our School. At both games yesterday, there was some serious school spirit. From the pep band to the cheerleaders to the kids in the stands to the parents biting their nails - everyone was hoping, wishing and cheering for their school. As a teacher, this delights me.
School is so important - and easy for me to love. But adding sports - a thing that so many people love - adds to the depth of the school experience. By playing and watching the game, selling hot dogs, playing in the pep band, waving a banner, drinking the team's Gatorade, we are creating and sustaining community. And that, my sporty and non-sporty friends, is what school is all about.

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