The Nicer Side of Sports
So I told you about the shmucky kid who liked to cheat. Before that match, our son played another young man. He appeared mildly delayed, not really the tennis pro physique, and a possible pushover. But appearances can be deceiving.
He had a few things going for him, one of which was consistency. He did not hit hard, but he was accurate, and he had tremendous staying power. He did not grow weary. Petya made a few blunders here and there, and the game actually became close for no good reason.
The opponent had a very unique style, not traditional tennis strokes, almost ballet-like moves. You couldn’t help but smile. He was pleasant and polite and we called out a few times to him, “Good shot!” and he beamed.
Another coach who knew him ambled by. I asked if he was acquainted with the parents and if they were around. He said that it was a large family, father was a physician, all of the kids received private lessons, and several of them were playing in the tournament. So the parents could be anywhere near the courts.
When Petya won, we congratulated the other young man and told him how well he played. Petya walked him back to the clubhouse, hand on his back, laughing and talking. Our son had a full day ahead of him, and would eventually earn the 2nd place commemorative plate by winning against the #1 seed and later losing to #2 who was definitely out of Petya’s league and one of the best players he had ever encountered, also a very nice guy.
On the day just before Petya played the really rough player who had honesty issues, shall we say, that I wrote about a couple of days ago, we came to the clubhouse later for him to play another game. There was this first sweet player, sitting there with a textbook and writing answers to questions in his notebook, obviously doing his homework between games. From there, we went into what would later descend into the temper-tantrum tournament.
Later on, I commented to my kids. Petya had played the mildly delayed boy, who, by the way, constantly talked to himself. Mashenka was very intrigued by this.
“Well, what was he saying?” I asked, watching the ballet moves.
“Stuff like, ‘You’re going down!’” she laughed.
“You see,” I told them, “here’s a guy with some challenges, and yet he’s kind, and polite, and a decent player, and does his homework. He psychs himself up and speaks positively. And then we have another player who is very talented, but wastes his energy with temper tantrums and by being out of control and mouthy. Talk about a comparison and contrast! I’d rather have the first boy as my child any day.”
The kids really, really took it to heart. I wonder what the first player would have thought if he knew he made such an impact on us. But those are some of the sweet surprises that life brings our way, ballet moves and all.
—————Tags: good guys finish first, good peer role models for kids, good sportsmanship, mildly delayed athletes, parenting blog and sports, teen tennis, the power of consistency in sports