Again, excellent basketball to watch, even that young.
All of the players on the court, on both teams, learned multiple, incredibly valuable, lessons that evening. Those lessons came not because of the game, but because of one child's actions and how everyone responded.
It was well into the second half, and my son's team was up by about 7 points. One of his teammates, a sweet kid I'll call J, was playing defense while the other team was driving towards the basket. Both teams were hustling and playing hard, and the game had gotten... I'll call it "slappy", but the refs called fouls on both sides. They let a lot go, but they did so consistently, which sometimes is all you can ask for. Yes, I prefer for more whistles than less, largely because it's the only way kids learn proper basketball, but again, sometimes consistency is the best you are going to get.
Suddenly, a player on the other team must have not liked the way he was being defended against, and threw J to the ground, jumped on top of him, and punched him square in the head.
Within seconds, several things happened. The ref, who thankfully was standing mere feet from them, pulled the kid off of J before he could land a second punch. J's mom, the assailant's dad, and both coaches ran onto the court while keeping the rest of players on their benches. Remember, these are 9 and 10 year old kids.
In that moment, those children learned that anger and violence can break out in an instant.
They learned what violence looks like. Lesson #1.
The father of the kid who punched J took him to the sideline, where they stood for a few minutes as the father (I can only hope) had some stern words for his son. He didn't meet violence with violence, which I appreciated. There was no grabbing or shaking, but just stood there speaking to his son while the boys eyes were glued to the floor. I heard several people later make comments like, "You know there is something going on at home if he is like that at 9 years old." I am willing to admit that I don't know, and will not pass that judgement. In that situation, the father didn't lay a hand on his son, and I'm grateful for that. The two of them then grabbed their coats and left the gym without another word to anyone else, which I believe was the right call. We are all still waiting to hear what the exact rules are for the league, but I imagine at a minimum he is done for the season. He may be banned for longer.
His teammates are now permanently short a player, our players know that, and those children have learned that their actions have consequences. Lesson #2.
As the father was dealing with his son, the coach of the other team didn't return to his players. Instead, he followed J back to our bench and knelt down in front of him as his mom did the same. That coach, who is probably a dad himself, wanted to make sure that J was okay. Again, he didn't exchange a word with his own player. His focus was on J. My son, who was there on the bench with the rest of the team, told me after the game that the coach was telling J that he was an excellent player and how he looked forward to seeing him play the rest of the game. The coach then high-fived J then stood up and shook our coach's hand as the spectators applauded.
In that moment, those children, as well as all of us watching, learned what class looked like. Lesson #3.
As the game continued, J got back out there and contributed to the fact that his team won the game. All of those kids, even on the losing team, learned that they can pick themselves up and finish what they started, even after something unimaginable happens. Yes, fights sometimes break out at sporting events, but I can honestly say that you never expect it, especially at 9 years old. The other team played their hearts out, and I applaud them for that. They refused to be seen in the light of one teammate.
All of those kids learned to never give up. J showed us all that you can be literally thrown to the ground and beaten, and still come up strong. They gave us all Lesson #4.
J's mom even learned that it's okay to laugh in the midst of something that awful for a mother to experience. When we pointed out that J can now cross 'taking a punch' off his bucket list, she roared with laughter. As shook up as she was, she was so proud of how her son handled himself. We were too.
There are lessons all around you, every day. Watch for them, listen for them, and learn from them.
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