Yesterday we witnessed the most amazing sportsmanship I have ever witnessed. Before I share the story, I want to tell you about some of the history building up to the day.
Tom and I have been married twenty years. Tom has played volleyball for years and much of our early married life and memories involved volleyball and volleyball friends. Tom was so much fun to watch as he played the sport he was so passionate about. He had the honor to be asked to play in Nationals the summer we were married.
Our kids would come to volleyball as babies and toddlers to watch and chase around the gym. The love of volleyball has thankfully passed on to our children.
By third grade Kya was begging her Dad to play JO volleyball but in our area, teams did not develop until 6th grade. In 5th grade. After conferences one evening, Tom was talking to some parents telling them of Kya’s wish to play. A few of them piped in and said, my daughter would like to play too. Within a few moments in the hall at conferences, they quickly had a team of nine girls that wanted to play and two parents including Tom willing to coach them.
They approached the local organization and were told they were too young to play that they had to wait until the next year. The parents decided to form a team and join an association out of town. Some of the girls were new to volleyball and some had basic knowledge. The first year was filled with hours of basic skills, tedious repetitive drills and dedicated parents and coaches.
The girls worked hard and battled their way through their tournaments playing girls a grade or two above them. The coaches, Tom and Lori made a choice in the beginning to play all of the girls equally throughout the entire year. They never pulled one of the girls for a missed serve, or for trying but missing a ball. They developed a team, not individuals. The final game of the season resulted in the girls taking the championship of the silver (lower) division. It was a huge win for the girls.
The following year, the choice had to be made to join the local club or to stay together. As a group, the parents choose to stay together, not to be rebels, but to give their kids a strong foundation of volleyball.
The second year was a joy! As a result of the equal play, the girls developed together. They tried hard and every line was as strong as the next. The lines rotated steadily, each set of three girls taking their turn on the bench… Never altering rotation whether it was pool play or the Championship game. The second year, this team of sixth graders and one fifth grader took2nd in Gold in their first tourney 1st in Gold level every tournament after. In my opinion, this is a testament to their coaches for giving them the confidence to play without worrying about making a mistake. And of course, the dedication of the girls and their parents.
After much debate, the parents decided to keep the team together for a third year. It was an individual decision by every single parent.
I know that life is not about winning and my concern for the year as a parent was to make sure that our kids are humble and to keep them challenged. We played our first tournament yesterday at their 13’s level and we have moved them up to 14’s for the rest of the year to challenge them. We realize that it is not about winning, but improving and playing your hardest. We have no idea what we face for the rest of the year, we could get stomped on every tourney, but we are doing the best by our kids.
(I had no intention of writing this story today… I am so sorry for being so long winded. There has been negative talk about our decision to keep this team together and the words flowed today. I challenge any parent to look at it from a parents perspective and honestly say that they would make a different decision for their child.)
So this leads me to the 16 team tournament we played yesterday. The girls played well and won their pool and the first round of playoffs.
In the second round we faced the Sauk Rapids 13-1 team. As a spectator, the game was incredibly fun to watch. This team we were facing had skills… But the most impressive thing they had was heart and enthusiasm.
In the first game, the score steadily grew in our favor. I can’t recall exactly how many points we were ahead, definitely double digits, but this team filled with heart, celebrated each and every point they earned as though it were game point. Most impressive, was that they did not get down at all when the Sauk Rapids team was behind. Their bubbly personalities encouraged the effort of their teammates. I can’t recall the exact score but it was something like 25-6.
So as the second game ensued, they started fresh and motivated! In fact they went on to win the second game, 27-25. Some of our girls, my daughter included, struggled to stay positive in that second game, which is natural in sports.
Our team went on to win the match in the third game. The thing that resonated with me and our girls was the display of sportsmanship that we had the fortune to witness yesterday.
Our girls came off the court moved by the encouraging words of the team that we took out of the championship game. The girls were given the gift of positive comments and behavior that displayed emotional maturity beyond their years. Some of our girls even hugged girls from the other team afterword. What an amazing experience.
The girls continued talked about this team as they left the court and throughout the remainder of the day and actually went on to win the Gold Championship.
I was moved by this team’s attitude and was able to compliment some of the parents and let them know how very impressed we were with their girls and coach.
As a Mom, I would prefer to hear how my child made an impact on her peers in a positive way over compliments about her athletic abilities and was grateful to be able to share that with the parents who clearly worked hard to set a strong foundation for their children.
Sportsmanship has always been at the forefront of our foundation and Tom and Lori often coach the girls to keep their composure. As a parent, I want to ensure that my daughter displays, not just good sportsmanship as she has in the past, but Magnificent Sportsmanship. We learn by example and the Sauk Rapids 13-1 Volleyball team has set a Magnificent standard for sportsmanship.
I do love this team of girls and parents. We were sad to miss Sam who was home with the flu, but I love how it takes a team to stand tall (notice the tradition of our girls holding Greta (#11) so she can stand tall with the team as they take the court).
I want each of these girls to develop into magnificent sportsman.