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The Gloves

Soccer Gloves

Growing up, I was fortunate enough to watch and even meet many great athletes. Gary Payton, aka “The Glove” was one of them. I met him when he was playing for the legionary Ralph Miller at Oregon State University. This was way before he became an NBA Finalist, Gold Medal winner, and a legendary lock-down defender at the highest level.


While the title of today’s Huddle Up is about “The Gloves” it isn’t about Gary Payton nor Michael Jackson, although Michael’s Superbowl halftime show was epic. But I digress…..


This week’s theme is more about competitiveness and failure. And how we as leaders should deal with the latter.


To set the stage, a bit of background here. Our son Brock (now 7, going on 16) has started to play soccer, along with 37 other sports. His futbol (aka soccer) team is in a rec league with a bunch of local kids and a super volunteer coach and his wife that make things go. The league is mostly about kids learning to play and what sports is about. Learn, grow, get better, compete a little, have fun. Brock’s team and his coach embody all of these values.


In this particular league, there is one team that is more a of competitive “club” outfit whose coaches and parents have decided it’s better to dominate a bunch of rec teams than compete where they should be playing, which is not at this level. I’m not going to judge them here, their maker will do that for everyone. However, their team is a key cog to this week’s story.


This team hasn’t lost a game in several years, winning by as many as 19 goals on one occasion. Our little band of rec players has played them as tough as anyone the past two years. The first time we played them is the theme of this Monday’s Huddle Up.


As parents, coaches, and players, we all knew we were up against a juggernaut (did we mention the kids on both teams all go to school together? I didn’t know trash talking the week before a game in 2nd grade was a thing, but again, I digress). Our kids played great, but the first half didn’t go well, 4-0 bad guys. At halftime, this is where things took an interesting turn…..


Our son Brock had never played goalie before other than in our back yard messing around with me or his friends. Given the dire direction this game was taking, our son the 7-year-old walked up to his coach and said, “Give me the gloves.” He basically was saying, “I’m playing goalie, and nothing is getting past me if we are going win this game.” I was standing there watching this, and honestly, was quite inspired.


Now if this were a Disney movie, he would have stopped every shot, and his mates would have carved out four crazy goals to tie the game. Then they would have won in a dramatic shootout, sending the evil empire away in shame. Well, this wasn’t the Mighty Ducks.


Brock played well in his first time in goal but these guys were overwhelming. He gave up another handful of netters, some of which were his mistakes and a couple were team things as they are learning to play a game in unity. They are kids after all.


When the final whistle blew, Brock was distraught. He was upset that he couldn’t save his team from their eminent destruction. The kid is competitive, that is for sure. On the way home, I tried to pump him up telling him how well he had played. He wasn’t having any of it. He was more concerned with his classmates and the trash talk he was surely going to hear the following week in school. It was at this point that I decided to take a different approach. I pivoted this to a teaching moment.


After explaining to Brock what his team should do when they had the upper hand on someone like this (not running up the score, putting your best players in the back or on the bench, let the younger kids play more, etc.), I asked him if he had ever heard the term, “The shoe is on the other foot.” He said no, so I explained it to him.


Basically, some day he would be on a team that is better than these guys. Could be in soccer, could be on the golf course, could be on the court. At some point in time, he will have the opportunity to turn the tide and roll the score up on them, and if he so chooses, to talk trash in class after their defeat. He took the bait…..


Brock said, “But dad you told me what they are doing is wrong.” I said, “EXACTLY!”


Now should he make it clear who the better team is when this chance surfaces? Yes. Should they do all the other things on top of that? No.


You can beat someone without crossing that line. The best of the best win while letting you know they didn’t take the opportunity to rub it in.


Be the winner that does things the right way. And when your team needs you, go grab the gloves.

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