Did I ever tell you about the time my son almost broke his nose?
As often and as many sports as he plays, I guess it was really just a matter of time; although that still doesn't prepare you to watch it happen.
His head snapped to the right, his glove-less hand went up to his face and he fell to the ground. Not wanting to be the one to overreact, I forced myself to stop moving towards him. For a second, time stood still; the players and coaches frozen.
And then the scream came and it was game on.
I'm still not really sure how it wasn't broken; it had doubled in size by the time I peeled his fingers away and when he woke up the next day, he looked like a mole emerging from hibernation with his eyes tiny slits on his face.
Hold on, though.
This post isn't actually about my warrior baseball player and the time he almost broke his nose. It isn't about the panic that parents feel when they see their kids get hurt or how we would trade places with them in a second.
This is about sportsmanship.
My son's teammates and the players from the opposing team took a knee while my son was down. They stood and clapped when he stood to walk off the field, holding an ice pack to his nose.
Hold on, though.
This isn't actually about the sportsmanship of those young ball players.
This is about the sportsmanship of adults.
Several adults from the other team ran out onto the field at the same time that I did. One of the opposing team's base coaches identified himself as a firefighter as he knelt down next to my son, took his face in his hands and recommended we head to the ER. Parents from both teams ran to get us ice, helped pack up our bags and carried them to the car. My son's coach forwarded me a text from the opposing coach a day later, in which he asked how my son was doing.
Fall ball season has long been over and we're now in the middle of the spring season; yet I still think about those moments and how they left such an impression on me. I'm not sure why I feel so touched by having witnessed other grown adults care so much about the welfare of my offspring.
If that kind of respect can leave that much of an impact on us as adults- think about the impact it can have on our kids.
Good sportsmanship isn't born. It isn't created by a coach or a parent preaching to a player about acting a certain way.
Good sportsmanship is learned by watching. Watching professional athletes, watching coaches, watching our own parents, watching our teammates.
Come on, you know it's true (as we watch our kids dabbing and flossing EVERYWHERE).
Growing up in the world of long distance running, there was this unwritten rule about sportsmanship. It was about acknowledging that at the end of the race, you had both run the same distance and her legs were as dead-ass tired as yours. It meant that if your competition collapsed and you were still able to hobble, then you helped her get up and hobble too. It meant that in those hobbling moments, it didn't really matter who was helping whom.
This exact scenario played out more times then I can even remember with one particular competitor. We never trained together; we trained to race each other. She was often my main focus of competition, as I'm sure that I was hers. Yet we still helped each other up.
In between the moments of respect that we passed back and forth, I was watching my coach, my parents, my teammates do the same. I was watching them stand with her coaches, parents and teammates. I was watching them shake hands, show concern, exchange congrats. I was watching my coach acknowledge her talent and work ethic with respect. Now don't think this meant we weren't competitive. We were number one in the state my senior year; competitiveness ran strong in our blood.
Yet so did respect for our competition.
So it's not just about telling your children to line up and shake hands with their competition at the end of the game. It's not just about yelling to the team to take a knee when someone gets hurt.
It is about showing them how to do it.