Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, January 25, 2007

It's Not if You Win or Lose, It's How You Play the Game

by Julie Coulter Bellon

I love playing sports. I was on a championship volleyball team, I played on the high school basketball team, and I did track and field with the shot put as my specialty. I love a good game of hockey and I ripped all the ligaments in my knee once playing football with the boys. Naturally I was excited to have children and I wanted them to find a sport they loved.

They did.

This basketball season we have five children that are playing basketball, with two of those children playing church ball as well as in the city league. This means that I attend a lot of basketball games every week. At least six every Saturday. It is so interesting to me to see the difference between my eight year old's team and my seventeen year old's team and think that once upon a time, my seventeen year old was just like my eight year old. For my eight year old, it's all about fun and I sit back and cheer and encourage. For my seventeen year old, it's still fun, but it's a pretty intense competition where every foul shot counts. I still cheer and encourage him, but I have to do it a little more quietly or I'll embarrass him. I'm generally a good fan, I've never been ejected or had any problems like that, but I came close recently.

The coach of my daughter's basketball team called me and asked if I'd coach for her that day because she had to go to a funeral. I said sure, no problem, and I didn't think there would be. I'd been to a lot of ball games and my daughter's games seemed the least intense to me. We arrived at the gym, did some warm-ups, I gave the girls their starting line up and we were off to a great start.

We took an early lead, so I made some substitutions. The other team caught up and tied the game. We were back and forth for the rest of the half, but unfortunately, we only had one referee and he seemed allergic to calling the game fairly. My girls were literally pushed out of bounds, shoved to the floor, and blatantly hacked on the arms and no fouls were called. My best player was called for two fouls when she didn't even touch the other girl, and when I protested the referee explained to me that my girl had been standing too close to the other player. Standing too close? When my girls were practically draped with opposing players on them like a second skin? It was ridiculous. The other team cheered when their teammates deliberately fouled our team and yelled at my girls to "chill out" when they shook their head in frustration. In all my years of basketball, I've never seen anything like it and I've never seen a coach or referee allow it.

I went to the official at half time and pointed out some of our frustrations, especially the one player in particular that had slappy hands and he just shrugged his shoulders. With no other options, I went to my girls and told them we just needed to play our best game no matter what. We did that and it looked like we were going to win it, horrible referee or not. However, with a few seconds to go in the game, the other team made a basket to tie the score and we went to overtime, just as my point guard was called for another phantom foul and fouled out.

We had a few minutes before the overtime started and as my players came off the court, my daughter had a large scratch across her face and two of my players were limping after being thrown to the ground. (One ended up having to be treated later on and is still wearing a knee brace, that's how bad it was.) Our other point guard had said "Come ON!" to the referee after she had been shoved and she had gotten a technical and was sitting out.

I have to admit, I was upset at the injustice that was going on in front of my face. My general easygoing nature seemed to disappear and I silently stood there, arms folded, unable to sit any longer. Overtime began and when the ref finally called a foul against the girl on the other team with the slappy hands, I wanted to cheer, but instead I said loudly, "FINALLY! She's been doing that the whole game!" And the ref gave me the death glare, almost gave me a technical, while pointing his finger at me and saying he was doing the best he could. Then he made a smart remark to one of my girls and the other coach yelled at me from across the gym. It was crazy! The whole room was charged with tension as the first overtime wound down and we were in the lead by two (because my daughter made this awesome basket!) but with ten seconds left to go the other team tied it once again.

Double overtime.

The adrenaline was pumping through my system by this time and I could hardly stand still. The minutes ticked by and I could tell my team was tired, hurt, and frustrated. With two minutes left to go, we were down by two points, and another of my best players fouled out. I put in this one small girl who made up for her height with very quick hands. She managed to steal the ball and made a wild shot. It was one of those that went round and round the rim, and everyone's head is following it. Will it drop in? Will it drop out?

It dropped in and we cheered. A few seconds later, with a minute left to go, we scored again. We were up by two. Then we were called for another foul and they had two shots. I couldn't handle a triple overtime so I have to admit I was praying with all I had that she would miss. She made the first one. It was a one point game. My entire team stood up, and the room was almost silent. The girl bounced the ball three times, lined it up, then shot.

It was wide. She missed.

We grabbed the ball and with forty seconds left to go, we slowed it down, and ran the clock. Then it was over. We'd persevered. I'd never breathed such a huge sigh of relief in my life.

I was so proud of my girls because even though it had been a tough game and they'd been incredibly frustrated, they hadn't played dirty or given in. They could hold their heads high at the game they'd played. That's what my coaches had always taught me and that's what I'd hoped to convey to those girls. I think I did. I think my girls walked off that court as winners, not only because the score said we were, but because of their actions. I know that even if they would have lost, it would have been handled with grace and I'm proud of the team for that quality.

Sadly, the other coach wouldn't shake my hand as I held out mine to her, but I still told her I thought it had been a good game because it was. I mean, my heart took a good half an hour to calm down after that, the adrenaline was pumping so hard. It was a hard-fought competition and it took teamwork and sportsmanship hand in hand to overcome the obstacles. We completely banded together as a team which is what it's all about anyways. It was a good game, win or lose.

And speaking of good games, congratulations to the Canadian hockey team who won their third straight World Junior Championship and brought home the gold. They worked hard, beating the U.S. team in a nail-biting shootout, and then winning against Russia in the championship game 4-2. Woohoo!


At 1/25/2007 4:44 PM, Blogger FHL said...

I'm not much of a sports fan, and I know very little about basketball. (We didn't even have a sports team at my high school. And yet, we had cheerleaders. Go Brain Brawl!)

I just wanted to compliment you on your excellent writing up of the action in the game. I found that _I_ was tense about the outcome of the game. If you write your fiction as well as you do your non-fiction, I suppose it's no wonder that you were voted Top Author. =)

Why is the shot put a sport / Olympic event? It's so arcane. You're actually pushing the ball, not throwing it like a baseball. Are there ancient tribes that use this to hunt? (I'm thinking about the Javelin throw here.)
They should modernize things and include stuff like speed text messaging.
("LOL! I 1 Au!")

At 1/25/2007 4:58 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Wow, Julie! You and your team deserve a huge round of applause for keeping your cool through all that garbage. What a game!

At 1/25/2007 11:34 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

FHL--thanks for the compliment. You're awesome!

You know it was interesting to me how far the lack of respect and sportsmanship has come since I was a teenager. I was somewhat surprised at what seemed acceptable to the other adults there because I expected better.

It makes me wonder where society is going, can we change direction, and what are we teaching our children?

At 1/26/2007 9:45 AM, Blogger Cheri said...

Julie, what an incredible game! Those girls were lucky to have you at the helm. And I agree, there are times when you wonder what the "sports arena" teaches the youth of today. I fear it's no longer about sportsmanship, depending on the game\match. You are to be congratulated for holding fast to traditional values.

At 1/30/2007 9:34 AM, Blogger G. Parker said...

That is one of the most frustrating things about sports today...especially school sports. It never seems to be fair to both sides. I realize in some aspects the refs can't win for loosing, but most of the time it's blatant, like your game. I'm proud of the way you handled yourself, and proud of your girls. Way to go!! and hubby would be proud of your hockey team...LOL...even though they beat the US! (boooo) grin.


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