Winning in Spirit

Below is an entry I submitted to the Don’t Waste Your Sports DVD Contest last year; it was one of ten winning entries. I thought I’d repost it. It’s about a lesson on humility and the spirit of sportsmanship.

*****

The game was clearly over. Time had not run out, but the scoreboard indicated an insurmountable lead for our team and the faces of the opposing team confirmed it. We dominated on the boards and sank one shot after another.

We were the better team on the court that day, or at least the scoreboard would have you believe.

With the decision in hand, our team of 8th graders was clearly having a blast. And being an inexperienced, volunteer boys basketball coach, I seemed to let the unruly on-court behavior get the better of me. Discipline soon waned. One fancy no-look pass on one play gave way to a showy alley-oop on the next. Before we knew it, our players began chucking three-pointers from half-court.

After the game, as both teams were exchanging high-fives, their coach, several decades older, confronted me.

“Congrats on the win. You got a talented team,” he said, “But it was disrespectful what you did towards the end. Maybe they can learn a thing about sportsmanship, Coach.”

I can’t believe it didn’t occur to me then, but we were no longer just having fun—we did it at their expense. Though we won the game, as was obvious on the scoreboard, we had lost the game in spirit. Sure enough, I would deliver this message to the kids who were not expecting such words after a victory.

There is much to be said about humility, because the ability to reflect genuine grace is perhaps the best victory of all.

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