After a week of experiencing an extreme case of nerves and agonizing cuts, my son made his high school’s sophomore basketball team last November. It was a great accomplishment. However, we have quickly learned that being on the team has its share of disappointments as well. My son is incredibly nice and very obedient. And those traits don’t mix well with high school hoops. My son believes that everyone should play by the rules. I agree with him. Unfortunately, holding jerseys, standing on another player’s foot, staring down a player you have knocked to the ground, throwing elbows, pushing and shoving when the official isn’t looking, and taking any advantage over another player seems to be necessary to secure a win. And the objective isn’t just to win but to demoralize your opponent in the process.
I love the game of basketball, and I love to watch my son play, but I realize that in order for him to play at this level, he might have to change who he is, and I don’t think that is who I want him to be. His coach says that he needs to toughen up. He is probably right. Staring down a player he has knocked down is not in my son’s nature. He would prefer offering a hand to help him up. The concept of holding another player’s jersey when it is against the rules goes against my son’s moral compass. If cheating is part of the game, I am not so sure I want my son to be comfortable with that aspect. Yes, there are a lot of good men who understand it is part of the game to play a certain way on the court and then choose complete integrity in all other aspects of their life. For some – like Tiger Woods – the line becomes blurred and cheating – as long as you don’t get caught – becomes acceptable no matter the venue.
And then there is all the swearing and yelling from his coaches and mentors. I think that I might have yelled at my son possibly twice in his lifetime. And I have never uttered a swear word at him. I am not a saint. My children have heard me yell. However, this fine young man simply chooses to do the right things – no yelling is ever required. It breaks my heart to see his dejected face after his coach has publicly humiliated him. In my experience with him, a simple pointing out of his mistake is really the only correction my son needs to do things differently in the future, but I think his coaches must assume the yelling will add to his toughening process. They are probably right. I just worry that this type of development will change the kind, sweet, honest, and compassionate son whom I absolutely adore. And then again, he may not change and our basketball journey may simply come to a quick end. And quite frankly, if I have to lose his goodness to toughen him up, I will gladly cheer for him at a swim meet instead.
In a world filled with self-absorbed, take advantage any way you can, tough and hardened men, a kind, honest, thoughtful, and compassionate young man is indeed a rarity. It seems rather odd – and incredibly foolish – that we would want to change him to be like everyone else simply to be successful at a possibly inconsequential and frivolous game. It would make more sense to change the way sports are played instead. But I think I would definitely be called a “girl” or probably worse for expressing that particular sentiment.