I’ve coached sports for my kids for many years now, starting with my daughter’s softball team, my son’s football team, and now my step-son’s soccer team. I get more joy out of watching kids develop and seeing their face light up when they do something that didn’t think they could do than just about anything.
Last year, the soccer team I was co-coaching was pretty good. We had lost a few games through the year, but nothing larger than a margin of 2 point. Because our town is so small and we were the only team in our age group, we were able to represent our town in the area tournament.
Right away we faced a team that beat us in the regular season and, again, they beat us and put us in the losers bracket of the tournament. This team was extremely aggressive and fast. They played right at the line of unsportsmanlike like, pushing and throwing elbows when the referees weren’t looking. Alas, it’s one part of the game I do not like, but it’s not altogether uncommon in some towns.
We managed to win the remaining games and late that Saturday night, we faced the undefeated team yet again. We lost to them in the regular season, and earlier in the day. To say that confidence wasn’t high would be an understatement. They were big, fast, and skilled…and a little bit mean too.
I’m not going to drag the story out because it’s only setting the stage. We beat the team by one goal. Our kids played the game of their lives, every one playing above their skill level. Unfortunately, the evening had a stain on it. The coach of the other team was livid. He yelled and screamed at his kids the entire time. I don’t know about you, but I find it really hard to inspire 8 and 9 year old kids that way. To top it off, after the game he refused to line up to shake hands and to sign the official scorecard. Wow.
Fast forward to the first game of this season, two weeks ago. Coach Angryman brought his team to our humble field for the season opener. The game was never in contention. We won 10-2. Again, he showed his proverbial rear-end by getting into a verbal altercation with the referee about missing an off-sides call that I couldn’t have made where I was standing, and Coach Angryman was 30 yards further away than I was. To make matters worse, one of our players decided to dish out a little of what he had been receiving all game (against our wishes) and Coach Angryman said some not so nice words to him after the game. Not wanting things to escalate any further, I gave the young man a quick lecture about being the better person, and to ignore the other coach. I had to fight my own inner Angryman not to Crane-Kick him, Daniel Larusso style.
This past weekend, we traveled to Mr. Angryman’s city to play another team. When we were walking to drop our gear on the sidelines, we saw him walking toward us. The other coach leaned in and whispered, “Here he comes.”
He reached out his hand and immediately said, “I’m so sorry about how I acted. I don’t handle frustration well and I was more than frustrated with my own team. I wanted to apologize to you and the young man I said something to. Where is he?” We called him over and the coach stuck out his hand and offered his apology to him, saying he was a great soccer player and he should never have said anything to him.
Talk about a total transformation. My opinion of this guy went from lower than dog poop, to respect, not because he apologized to me and the other coach, but because he humbled himself in front of an 11 year old boy. He could have asked us to tell him he was sorry, instead he chose to do it himself.
When we realize that we’ve done something inappropriate to someone else, how motivated are we to chase down someone and fall face first on the ground asking for forgiveness? Someone doesn’t have to apologize to be forgiven. But it’s awesome to see someone grow by lowering themselves, even old Angrymen…even me.