Sunday marked the end of my 14-year-old son's grade school basketball career. It has not been an especially illustrious career; in fact, the losses have certainly outweighed the wins. But these past four years of playing basketball for our Lutheran grade school have been a major part of our lives, and now it is over. We end the season each year by participating in a large Lutheran school tournament about two hours away. All the families travel together and stay at the same hotel. We eat, laugh, cheer and hang out as one big school family. It's a blast, and the highlight of the players' year (and their siblings' and parents' as well).
The team ended up only winning two games this season, and although I would have preferred a winning season (who wouldn't?), I consistently told my son how proud I was of the effort I saw him put forth each game. Even if they were losing by 20 or more points, he and his teammates never gave up. They pushed and gave the game everything they had. We all watched this team, many of whom have been friends since kindergarten or earlier, work together, rely on each other, trust each other, and grow. In my opinion, that teamwork, integrity and growth is even more important than winning lots of games.
During the final game of the tourney, with less than two minutes left and only down by six, my son and one of his teammates noticed that points had erroneously been given to us instead of the other team. They waved quickly to the ref, stopping the game momentarily, to point out the error. The scoreboard was corrected and the game continued, with us finally losing by about six. A few hours later, when I asked him why he had stopped the game to flag down the ref, since the error made winning much more achievable, he said, "A dishonest win would have meant nothing".
This is my black-and-white son speaking. Having no room for any gray area has its challenges for sure, but I am so thankful that being ethical at all costs is so important to him. There are rough waters a-coming in high school and beyond and I pray that this approach to life continues to be second nature to him.
So the season is over, with a rather lopsided record. But I think these boys had a winning season. In the things that truly matter - integrity, Christian attitude, teamwork - they came out on top.