Monday, October 27, 2014

It's Just a Game - Right?

I have always encouraged my kids to keep their sports participation in perspective.  "It's just a game" or "It's just a race" are phrases I have often uttered. This week, I am re-examining that philosophy.

My husband and I have been soccer parents for 12 years.  My son has been playing the "beautiful game" year-round for quite a few of those years, at many levels in various leagues.  During his games, I've been a supportive fan - cheering, hoping my son's team would win, and mostly just praying (sometimes in vain) that my son and his friends wouldn't get hurt - and that they wouldn't hurt anyone else.
I've even made a soccer cake for a birthday or two.


But, this high school season I became a different fan.  I suddenly became passionate about the outcome of the games.  Runner-up the past two years, we were hungry for our kid's school to own the first place soccer trophy. Winning a championship was so important to our boys  - and absolutely within our grasp.

Or, so we thought this year.  Going into the play-off game on Thursday, seeded second in our Division and playing the 7th place team, we still needed to win in play-offs to secure a berth at State.   But, after overtime play and a shootout, we lost to a team we had won against twice before. Our boy's season ended - just like that. Totally unexpected.

How could this have happened? Maybe I should just blame it on the fault of the eclipse. (That seems as good of a reason as any!)


  • Why else would I have had a migraine for the first time on Thursday, after having been headache free for so many weeks?
  • Why else would there now be people in the USA sick from the Ebola virus?
  • Why else would there have been shootings in the parliament buildings of peace-loving Canada and in a school in Washington this week? 
  • Why else would the perfect season of our undefeated high school football team end, in a loss just hours after we lost our soccer game.
The only explanation I can come up with for any of this is the recent eclipse. It apparently was nearly at its height about the time our opponent scored their first goal. While a local soccer game holds no significance on a global scale to major world events, perhaps the location of the moon did have an influence on them both? Scientifically, I know this is unlikely, but all of these events seem otherwise quite inexplicable.


In this zoomed-in photo, the moon appears eclipsed by a prairie plant stem, but on Thursday, the moon eclipsed the sun.
I couldn't bear to look at a computer screen Thursday evening, because of my headache.  I couldn't write because my thoughts wouldn't formulate.  But now, my thoughts have jelled.  Here is what I think about the play-off game...

It was not “just a game.”  
It was the culmination of a season.  A season during which our boys changed from being individual players, to become a team.  A season when their coaches changed, from seeing them not just as potential positions on the field, but as players with heart, stamina, courage and perseverance. During this season, these boys became like brothers. Their families became our family.  

This fall, we weathered the unfortunate occurrence of several nasty injuries together; all of us worrying about those boys like they were our own.  Concussions. Various injuries of calves and hips and shins and other body parts. Badly broken bones, which required surgery.  Through all this, positions on the field shifted, and determination deepened.  One would think seeing and experiencing such severe injuries would instill caution in our players - they just played harder.

There is a hole in our calendars.  Players and fans have had the days of the MT State Soccer Tournament marked off for months.  Suddenly, we will not be hosting or attending prestate tournament dinners.  We can still go watch the games, and cheer on our school's outstanding girl's team - but school and work may take precedence over how much time we spend doing this. We are having to shift not just our mind-set, but our calendars.  This feels a little heartbreaking, but it is really just an example of how plans in life can often change.

It was the looks on our players faces, and the support they showed each other in the aftermath of the loss, that has me realizing what I had witnessed was more than "just a game." While it feels good to win a game and even a championship, true winners are not always determined that way.  Our boys - our men - are all winners.  They have all succeeded at other things (on and off the soccer pitch)  before this game - and will do so many times again in the future.  They may not have scored as many goals as the other team in the playoff game - but they have won at life.  


The score of a game is not always the measurement of a true win.
I am sad for our boys.  I am sad that when they expected to have more games to play, now the seniors will graduate and they will never all play together again.  I am sad that their dreams of a championship have died. But, I have admired them - while they were winning, when they tied, and perhaps most of all, in this loss.  

It is my hope that with time, this team will gain perspective. Rather than blame each other, they are blaming themselves, shouldering the responsibility for why more points in this playoff game were scored against instead of for. I hope they realize that maybe it was just the fault of the moon. I hope they can shake off this loss, and understand that unlike unprecedented violence in a country which has always been remarkably civil, or a lack of containment of a deadly virus - whether you lose or win a soccer game, it is not really a life-changing event.

There is a lot beyond athletic skill that can be learned and gained from sports. After the game, I texted my daughter (a college swimmer) and said, "I hate sports."  Her astute response appeared immediately, "No, you hate these moments." She was right, as she so often is anymore. She has learned a lot through both success and disappointments in the pool.

A competition is not really "just a game," it is a part of the game.  One which everyone can win. I know that our boys, even though they will not compete for a state trophy next weekend, are true winners. Every single player. And I am proud of them. Very, very proud.



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16 comments :

  1. As our kids get older, their games become so much more fun and we feel so much more invested in them and in the other players. I'm sorry your son's team won't be going to state. I hope he'll get the chance next year! (Not sure if he's one of the seniors?)

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    1. Thanks Marie - that is true of lots of things in life! He is a junior this year, so he has one more year to play - but the seniors will be missed!.

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  2. Thanks, Susan! (next year, next year) xoxo, Sheila

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    1. Absolutely, Sheila! Thanks for leaving a comment!

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  3. Really well written post Susan, and a great compliment to your son and his soccer team. I'm so sorry they won't be going to state this year. It's so hard when we see how hard our kids are working for a goal - and then they just miss it. I'm glad your son has one more year!

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    1. Thanks Lana. I was writing this post when I saw the news about Marysville. I struggled a bit with posting it, as loss of a soccer game seemed trivial in comparison to school shootings. But - that is partly my point.

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  4. Such a great prospective Susan! Especially at a time when the world seems to have gone crazy. When you see parents beating up referees or each other. Things that aren't teaching our kids anything good and of course all the sad news of late. The way the act is a reflection on the parents and of good parenting and sadly to say not a lot of children receive that parenting that every child needs. When they do I suspect the whole world will become a better place to live. Beautiful post and they should also be proud of their momma!

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    1. Thanks Rena for such kind words, Rena. I agree that parents (and sadly even sometimes coaches) can make sports a negative experience for kids.

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  5. We put our kids in sports to teach them teamwork and a little something about life. If you play a game, someone will win and someone will lose. It sounds like this team has had some seriously good life coaching both from their team coach and their parents. They will play even harder next year. And no, I don't think the eclipse had much to do with it lol.

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    1. I don't know Delores ... statistics sometimes show that more babies are born during a full moon! An eclipse might more impact than our scientific minds believe. (Might as well blame it, anyway! Hee hee!)

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  6. A wonderful perspective, though I am so very sad that you found it in sadness. Where, drat it, the most powerful lessons are born.

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    1. So true. Learning to deal with defeat in sports can help deal with other failures later in life.

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  7. "Every challenge is a gift." You're right, it's not just a game, because the boys, parents, coaches and everyone will learn from the loss and become stronger because of it. You're a wonderful parent to see the positive of the experience and praise what they accomplished throughout the entire season, rather than focus on the result of their last game. It's obviously incredibly disappointing, but hopefully everyone will be able to move on with ease=)
    Visiting from #SITSBlogging.

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    1. Thanks for your visit and your comment! I love your quote - so true! I hope you will stop by often - headed over to check out Bump and Run Chat now!

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  8. Thank you for posting on Motivation Monday!

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