As parents, we say we want to give our children every possible advantage in life.
Here I stood, in the corner of the court, with a real opportunity to give my 13 year old and her friends that advantage. What would I do?
The right thing. It’s the only thing you ever can or should do.
I worked as a line judge at my seventh-grade daughter’s volleyball game this week. If you’re unfamiliar, parents often stand at the back lines of a volleyball court and help the officials know whether the ball landed in-bounds or out-of-bounds.
It’s a bit of a tradition in volleyball to have parents take turns manning the line judge position. My family has twice this year we have to do it, and I suspect I’ll end up doing it again when our next turn comes up.
Calling it like I see it has never been difficult for me, even when I know there might be consequences for telling the truth.
I spent nearly a decade covering sports at five different newspapers. I learned to keep my cheers to myself. I learned to be as impartial as possible while still enjoying a little bit of the emotion that competition brings.
But there’s something different when you have a team full of your daughter’s friends on the other side of the net serving and spiking the ball toward you. On any other day, you want to see them win. On Tuesday, I had to suppress that and just hope I made all the calls correctly.
I still wanted them to succeed. More importantly, I wanted them to earn it.
Sure, some people lead lives where they’ll get the benefit of the doubt on the iffy calls. Most people have to do their best each day just to get by, though. And sometimes, even when you do your best, you end up losing. Sometimes when you win, you’ve sacrificed so much you almost feel as if you’d lost.
These are the lessons of sports. These are the reasons I encourage my children to compete, even if I am worried they’ll get hurt or I find their practice schedules to be inconvenient and demanding.
The girls ended up winning the match, winning the first and third games. I never had to make any of the really tough calls against them. The only times I ever used the hand signals were to confirm what the official at the net thought she saw.
And, to the best of my knowledge and ability, every one of them was right. I wasn’t about to cheat or try to help her team.
This isn’t about winning at all costs. There’s too much of that in the world today. It’s about doing the right thing, even when it would be easier to do the wrong thing.
I don’t believe sports should be the only thing in your life. Faith and education play a key role in turning you into a good person who can do amazing things. But sports absolutely can help shape you into the best possible version of that good person who can do amazing things.
I just hope my children learned the important lesson that doing the right thing is never out of bounds.