Papa Bear was the Athletic Director at our local High School for 30 years or so. As his child, I always got roped into helping with various athletic events. Usually selling tickets or stamping hands. When I started in Youth Ministry, the one event I always was "volunteered" for was the Football Jamboree. About 8 years ago, a few youth workers in the area and I approached one of the local groups and volunteered to help with not only the Football Jamboree in August but the Basketball finals in February.
Last night was Basketball Finals again. I do not love stamping hands and being a hard-nose. I can do it, I just don't love it. I'd rather have fun and laugh with people than be the big meanie at the door who tells the random people that even though they:
A.) have a player on the team
B.) go to school at the school
C.) bought the loyalty pass to the high school their child attends
D.) were on the team at one point but not anymore
E.) at some point in time once coached a team at some high school somewhere
they still have to pay to get into the LEAGUE FINAL GAMES. Really, people, it's cheaper than a movie, just as long and not only can you talk during the whole thing, you can yell! Though you'll have to eat your popcorn in the lobby.
But I digress. Last night was the big Finals. The girls game came first. The Knights vs. The Sharks. The Knights dominated the first half of the game but in the second half The Sharks came back with a vengeance. So much so that at the sound of the buzzer at the end of the 4th quarter the score was tied. The game went into overtime. Back and forth across the court these girls ran, fighting for each point and chance to dribble and shoot the ball. At the last buzzer of the four minutes of overtime they had each scored...right back into a tied game. 2nd overtime. Again they fought, they worked, they ran, they dribbled, they shot. The last 10 seconds of the game came, The Knights were leading by one point. The tension in the room was fierce, the competition on the court was fierce as well. At the last second one of the lady Sharks got the ball and sent the ball flying...right into the net. The buzzer sounded and The Sharks won by ONE POINT. Fiercely fought game. (I use the word "fought" deliberately...there was much rolling around on the ground clutching the basketball to one's chest, with other players trying to snatch said ball from the hands of their opponents. I forgot at times that it was basketball.)
A couple of hours later the boys game was getting ready to be played. In line stood one of The Knight players with her parents. I waved the daughter through the door saying "She just played, she can get in for free." (see, I can be nice at the door) and then I heard these words come from the mouth of the Lady Knight's father..."Yeah, but she lost." Knife to the heart.
I defended this Lady Knight saying "She played hard, though! I watched her!" but my words fell on deaf ears. It didn't matter how hard she had worked, Lady Knight had lost and according to her dad losing wasn't good enough. I wanted to kick the father right out of the building as my heart broke for this young woman who was clearly told her worth depended on that win, not on the energy she put into the game.
That's how we are conditioned, though, isn't it? If we don't win, we fail and failing means that we are less than, worth less, not as highly favored, not as good, as smart, as capable, as lovely, as...you get the point I'm sure. As I stood there, watching the Lady Knight walk away, I grieved the damage that was happening in her at that moment. I ached for the young woman who needed to know that the final score wasn't everything, that giving her all really did matter. I wanted to shout from the rafters, fill up the gym with words of praise for a game well played and a heart that gave it's all, so that this one Lady Knight would know that her worth, her value didn't come from a score but from her efforts, her heart that fought a tough battle.
Words from a stranger, though, can't erase the damage already done by words from a Dad.