The tension level steadily escalated both on the playing field and in the stands. Only minutes remained in the fourth quarter. The score was tied and either side could have easily secured the victory. However, desperate times called for desperate measures.
Two coaches from one of the teams paced back and forth along the sidelines, conferred with each other via walkie-talkies and discussed the next plan of action. Time out was called. The squad quickly huddled together and received their latest instructions. As an added incentive, cash was offered to the athletes who would help ensure the win. The strongest players then stormed back into playing position while the weaker ones quickly exited the field and cheered their teammates on to their ultimate triumph.
While you might assume that this incident occurred at a professional sporting event, surprisingly enough it actually happened during one of my son Ryan's soccer games when he played on a first-grade league several years ago. That day I sat dumbfounded in my seat the entire time. What were these coaches thinking? Communicating with each other through electronic devices seemed a bit extreme to me. After all, they were overseeing six-year-old boys playing in a neighborhood park — not elite athletes competing in the World Cup! And when the rivalry was coming to a finish and the score was too close for comfort, they promised the defenders a dollar for each ball they blocked from scoring. While the kids absolutely loved this (especially my son!), I was disappointed in what was being encouraged.
As far as which kids actually spent the most time on the field during the games, the ones with the strongest skills secured the greatest amount of playing time. They were the boys whose parents were the coaches, or the ones who had older siblings on other leagues that they practiced and played with and/or those who got additional training on the side. The unfortunate little ones who merely played on the co-ed kindergarten league the year before didn't have a chance.
Needless to say, that season our team easily won most of the games and was in top place in the standings. To be perfectly honest - based on how this achievement was attained - I wasn't impressed or thrilled with the distinction. Without a doubt, I was definitely in the minority. Most of the other parents were overjoyed with the outcome. They loved having their kids on a winning team (even if their offspring sat out most of the season). It didn't matter that their children weren't learning the particulars of the game nor were they developing and practicing the skills necessary to play it. In the end, they were able to say their youngsters were champions. To them, that was all that really mattered. The win-at-all-cost philosophy was the team's game plan and it was stressed and encouraged over all other values and skills.