Our second oldest son is just about to finish up his first year as a high school algebra teacher. In the fall, he was an assistant coach for the varsity football team, and his boys went to the state championship game (although they didn't win). This spring, he has been the defense coach for the varsity lacrosse team, and last night they won the championship with a 12-4 victory over his old alma mater.
That was strange for us, sitting in the stands and not rooting for the blue team we'd been a part of for 12 years (because not only did we have boys playing on it, but my husband coached the defense, too, and then our #2 son spent 5 years coaching alongside his dad). But my husband and I root for our boys, always; and last night, our boy was a coach for the red team. And there we were with our youngest, whose senior season was still fresh in his memory, and who had teammates he'd played with just a year ago out on that field. Of course he was going to root for his alma mater. So we sat there on the 50-yard line, caught somewhere in the middle for this epic battle: we were neutral territory; we were Switzerland.
The great thing is that it really was a win-win situation. If our #2 son's team won, our baby would be happy for his brother, in spite of being disappointed for his former teammates. And if they lost, my husband and I would be happy for the boys in blue, for whom we'll always have a soft spot.
It turned out to be a big win for the boys in red--but the best part was that both teams were class acts throughout, giving a clinic on what winning and losing with dignity is supposed to look like. They both displayed the kind of sportsmanship you hope your kids will learn from playing high school sports.
After the game, I was able to capture some sweet candid moments when our son hugged and spoke with his former AD, who'd been there throughout his high school years when he was an athlete, and who'd become a co-worker during the 5 years he spent at his alma mater as a coach. This man is one of the finest people we've ever met, and I'm sure each of our boys will carry with him fond memories of Mr. L for the rest of his life. They spent a lot of time in his office next to the gym, eating the candy he bought in bulk to have on hand for the kids (but not during Lent!) and shooting the breeze. We just love this man.
I will always believe that sports--and the coaches and AD's who are involved with them--can teach kids a lot of important life lessons. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, and you need to know how to handle both situations with grace. Thanks to people like Mr. L, my husband, and son #2, a whole lot of boys have learned the art of sportsmanship.