An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Finish the Sentence

When our two oldest sons began playing school sports, a whole new world opened to us. At first it was all good (and fun!), but one day, without even realizing how it happened, or when, things turned serious and not so fun anymore. I won’t go into all the issues, but sitting in the stands you could sense an undercurrent of unease. Something was wrong, but nobody wanted to say or do anything. And who could blame them? Put the words kids and sports in the same sentence and you instantly create a hot topic. Furthermore, coaches and athletic directors carry a big stick, and to say anything means being ostracized from other parents or being branded a “bad sport”.

But my husband and I had some ideas on how to improve the sports program. We quietly set up a meeting and amicably presented them. At no point (and I want to be very, very clear about this) did we discuss playing time or whether or not a child deserved to make a team; also, the meetings weren’t about our boys, but about all the students. At those meetings we presented some ideas concerning oversight of the sports program, accountability for coaches’ behaviors; a more standardized method for conducting tryouts; and ways to better promote inclusion for our young athletes. Ultimately, we felt our school’s theme of a Christ-centered atmosphere was not represented in our sports program – not by a long shot – and some changes needed to be made.

So two meetings, with two different past administrations (again, to be clear, the meetings weren’t with our current administration) and what happened?  Absolutely nothing.

Oh, we could have pursued it further. We could have gone to the school board, or presented it at a PTO meeting, but at the end of the day my husband and I looked at each other and realized: It’s just sports, for God’s sake. It’s a game with a ball. In the grand scheme of things, none of it matters. Middle school (and high school) is a blip on life’s radar. A blip.

So we let it go. Our two oldest sons had some great seasons, and some not so great ones. They made most teams, but not all of them. Middle school ended, and high school meant new challenges and issues: a football coach who told one son that he wasn’t necessarily needed on the team; a son who made the basketball team one year, but the following year was pushed aside for players who never participated in tryouts or any of the pre-season practices; coaches who saved spots for players still involved in other sports, thereby ignoring those present and willing to play. Yes, there were issues, but we dealt with them at home, as a family, as best we could.

Then this past week a friend shared on Facebook her helplessness in dealing with her daughter’s tears due to a team sports situation, and even though we have moved on (at least until our little guy is old enough to start playing for the school) I felt compelled to comment; in fact, there were comments from many people, most of whom were sharing honest, personal, and sometimes painful experiences. The comments were not accusatory, but empathetic in nature. Most importantly, they were encouraging dialogue.

That is, there was dialogue up until the point someone expressed how they were offended by both the original post and the ensuing comments and, just like that, no more dialogue.

Whoa. Refer to the last couple of sentences in Paragraph One.

Offended? How, how was this person offended? The comments weren’t about their pain; the comments weren’t their stories. Was this person offended by honesty? Offended because we were openly talking about problems in our sports program, something which most people only whisper about? Did this person think we should be going through the channels instead of commenting on Facebook? (Well, refer to Paragraph Two above. Been there, done that. Twice.)

Or maybe it’s because they thought we were complaining about our school.

Look. My husband and I live in a great county in which there are a number of great public schools a short bus ride away. We don’t have to send our boys to a Catholic school. But we choose to do so, and the fact we are still there shows that we love our school. We support it. We promote it. But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect, and I’m not going to pretend otherwise. Too often I have heard people say, “It’s a great school; it’s not perfect, but …”

And they leave it at that. An unfinished sentence.

But what? It’s not perfect, but we just ignore that un-perfect part? But we choose not to acknowledge certain issues? But it’s not happening to me so it’s not important?

It’s not perfect, but we don’t care?

I recently watched Out of Africa, and toward the end of the movie Meryl Streep’s character has lost everything: her farm, her house, and her way of life. Before she returns to her native Denmark, she is determined to find a place for a tribe of South Africans who have been living on her land for generations. She appeals to her neighbors, her friends, and even government officials for help, but they are all embarrassed about her situation. They are offended because she is intruding in their perfect world with her oh-so-imperfect problems.

Well, there is so much that is imperfect in our perfect world.

Ever since his election Pope Francis has said that he prefers a Church which is bruised and dirty from having been out on the streets; that we need to come out of our comfort zones – leave our schools, churches and homes – and go out to confront illness, poverty, ignorance, injustice, prejudice, pain … all those elements of humanity which are messy. All those things which make people not experiencing them, uncomfortable. Offended, even.

But how – from the comforts of our schools, our churches and our homes – can we address all these things? It’s not so hard; as with most things, it begins by standing on what is good, opening our eyes to the not so good, and making changes right here in our schools, our churches and our homes. And during the process – by making it about others and not about us – in big matters and in small, in political arenas and in sporting ones, the good has the potential to become even better.

So, fill in the blank with whatever is your circumstance (school, church, home, family, government) and finish the sentence: It’s a great school; it’s not perfect, but … but there’s room for improvement; but we are addressing the issues; but we are making some changes; but we are learning, forgiving, trying.

Finish the sentence. And it starts from there.

1 comment:

Ray V. said...

Good points…this still is a free Country, right? We have the same issues on this side of the river also, not to mention some understanding as our girls attended AHS.

Some things just do not make sense…but sports seems to get a pass on sense.

Great article.