Fall sports competitions started last week at Liberty Bell High School with volleyball hosting Lake Roosevelt and football traveling over to Lummi Nation. Girls’ soccer will take on Omak on our home field this Thursday, the first home football game is this Friday, and cross country will be racing in Wenatchee on Saturday. Go Lions!
Michael Wilbur, the activities director, updates parents on the sports schedule each week via email. Along with the schedule, he reminds us of the expectations and code of conduct for parents, coaches and students. Based on growing belligerent behavior and disrespect seen at the professional, amateur and student sports levels against referees from parents, players and coaches, this reminder is also announced at the beginning of games. I think it’s great, but it’s a sad state of affairs that such a reminder must be made.
At some point along the line, the respect of the referee has been belittled. I hear this in my own kid, who often comes home from a loss, blaming the ref. Of course, there are those bad calls, those snap judgments that can be turning points in heated games. But the distinguished position he/she holds in the game has gotten lost on this generation.
It’s one thing for fans of the NFL to admonish refs who make over six figures a year when high-stakes errors occur, but it’s quite another thing for youth sports, where these folks get paid pennies on the dollar or volunteer their time to make a fair and even playing field. The refs we see on our fields and courts do it for the love of the game, as a community service, and we should be thanking them, no matter if we win or lose. OK, enough of my soap box.
Team sports offer belonging, a basic human need. I’ve been helping with junior high volleyball practices as a parent helper, channeling my high school coach who passed away a couple years ago. Each coach has their own style and sets goals for their team. He bred a team of champions. His goal was to win, and that we did — state, a couple times. I am sure he’s looking down from heaven, tickled that his legacy continues, at least in part.
It’s a special skill to develop each player for their own strengths while creating a team that is greater than the sum of its parts. Building teamwork off the court through public service projects, and on the court demanding goofy warmup dance routines, was one way he did this. Practices were hard and winning was fun.
But as I reflect, it is the sense of being part of something greater than myself that’s the most powerful memory. With today’s teenagers struggling with mental health, in part due to isolation, teamwork — be it in sports, drama club or band — builds trust and reliance on your others in spite yourself and nourishes a sense of belonging. And that’s something worthwhile.