Some see the glass as half full, while others take the opposing view and see it as half empty. It seems the high school sports scene can also be viewed both ways.
I had several interesting conversations with parents over the past week, with all sharing a completely different outlook on their child’s sports endeavors and the season outcome. The kids took the more positive outlook, while the parents thought we were doing their child or the team a grave disservice.
A concerned mom first called to try to understand why I had listed her son as a DNF or did not finish at his state ski meet. I was equally surprised and queried her as to why I would even consider leaving him out as participating in one of his most important meets of the season. Okay, so he fell, went off course, missed a gate, or whatever caused him–and several others on the team I missed–to be listed as DNF. She said she’d have to hide the paper from him because he’d be devastated. However, he had already seen the recap and saw things entirely differently and was happy I didn’t leave him out of the article altogether. He surely wasn’t happy that he had fallen, said the mom, but he also didn’t want to be left out of the paper in such an important race.
I had several similar conversations with parents of swimmers, who for varying reasons had been disqualified from their races. It was the same view from the parents that we were unfairly singling out their children in the paper. The kids didn’t agree, though, instead echoing the skier in the fact that it doesn’t look good to have a DQ next to your name, but that it was far worse to be left out of the article altogether. “We know we got disqualified,” said one woman’s son. “Everyone at the pool knew.”
I wrote a column on this subject several seasons ago, when a water polo team was intentionally going to be left out of the paper, and not by our call, because the squad had lost. I won a Michigan Press Association first place in part for that column. It’s available online for reading at www.mihomepaper.com if you missed it. It’s called No Disrespect, under the Sportsview link. It was just another example of how the adults within the program saw the outcome one way, and the kids had the completely opposite reaction.
The key piece of information that hinged on this team’s loss was also not going to be reported and that key tidbit told the entire story, as I learned from the coach when I called asking why we were not to report the outcome. Sure, the team had lost, but to a state-ranked team, he exclaimed.
Did anyone bother to tell you that? Nope.
It aggravates us when coaches either want us to not report on certain games because of a loss, or simply do not report what happened. THAT does the greatest disservice to the kids. Someone is always going to win, and someone is always going to lose. What matters is the effort the individual or team put forth in that loss, not that they lost.
Midway through the basketball season another mom took us to task because she felt we had disgraced her daughter’s basketball team detailing how they lost, but not why they lost. The school had decided not to report the outcome, and when we only had one side of the story to tell, that certainly looked bad for her daughter’s team. However, what we learned later that week, was that collectively, the team was barely standing on one leg with several players injured and sick. It’s those details that matter the most, not the loss, disqualification, or DNF.
A big thank you, by the way, for the parents who bothered to call. What I typically get is mean-spirited e-mails calling for my firing or for my staff to quit their day job and go work at McDonalds or WalMart. Not the nicest way to start your day off, but it comes with the territory. I’d much rather you talk to us in person, whether we agree or agree to disagree. And, to the ski mom who called the next day. You don’t owe me an apology. It’s okay to take a different stance, but don’t forget to ask the kids how they feel about it; it’s their season after all.