4th Grade Volleyball and the Edification Paradox…

3 all day long tournaments filled with 4th grade girls from all over a 100 mile area. 17 regular season games with 34 sets therein. Admittedly I lost count, but somewhere in the neighborhood of 550 points scored. 10 happy, healthy, and eager kids wanting to play and realize the true meaning of ‘team’ in the sense of a competitive sport. Those are the numbers.

Here are a few more. My daughter rode the bench the overwhelming portion of the entirety. She was given the chance to serve 3 times over these many points, sets, games, and weeks with her team. THREE SERVES TOTAL in these many hours combined. The handful of playing times she was plugged in, she was yanked before she could rotate into the back row to serve.

The first two tournaments when she literally played less than 5% of the time, she would find a quiet place after a game in a corner of the school and sob. When your child says to you, “I just want to play” with tear stained cheeks, what is your likely response? Her Mom and I handle these things differently. Mom was a cheerleader, so the ‘compete’ portion of competition escapes her on some level. She doesn’t know what it’s like to work your butt off and get beat – not in terms of competitive sports anyway. I played roundball and grappled when I was younger, but stuck to football and track in junior high and high school. I understand what disappointment in sports can be like, and no matter how well intentioned, I never welcomed a pep talk from my folks – that’s a reflection of me not them of course… Thus, I stuck to being game focused and redirecting back to team ideology when my daughter appeared to need it. It might not be best, but it’s all I know. Besides, in the most recent tourney, her playing time skyrocketed to nearly 7%. <—Insert snark here.

Her mom comforted her as best she could and made every effort to keep things upbeat with a touch of inspiration. Unfortunately 4th graders are too long on life lessons in most cases to be bamboozled by parental shell games. They’ve been handed the “you’re doing great out there in practice, I’ll bet you play in the next game” line too many times now. The duality of their stead dictates that while they know mom and dad are as stuffed as a Christmas goose, they aren’t brazen enough to call us on the carpet over it. So… They shake it off and get back in the game. That, and my daughter can still be bought with a few M&M’s and the idea a ‘walking taco’ is in her future should a good attitude accompany the end of a parent’s obligatory pep talk.

The funny thing about this though, was not only what I learned about others, but what I learned about myself. I, with great humility, must admit I have a tremendous propensity to be that parent who says what most others are thinking, but we all avoid in civilized volleyball society. Yeah, you know the guy… The one who hollers out during the occasional silent moment in the gym, “hey coach, my daughter wants to play too” or maybe even “all ten girls on this team have a heart, you should try it too coach.” But… Thankfully, I was able to keep my yap in check even though that monster raged under the surface all the while systematically poking my better judgement perimeter for weaknesses to exploit.

To state I’ve been really miffed about watching this season unfold doesn’t adequately convey my sentiment. I managed to work myself into a mini-fit at one point after we were home and I had a moment alone last night. I decided to sleep on it in hopes I’d wake the following morning to a great sense of calm. No such luck. #dangit

I have a prayer log programmed in my phone. Nothing too formal of course. It simply logs my prayers and reminds me if I’ve somehow forgotten to say them for some odd reason. It started out as a ‘best practice’ I put in place for myself years ago, and stemmed into a daily habit for me. As I checked that box at 4am I prayed that the Lord would help illuminate my path.

He did. He’s great like that.

“Who said life is fair? Where is that written?”
– William Goldman

As I considered the conglomeration of events as a whole, it occurred to me there were a lot of really healthy take-aways I’d simply neglected. My daughter learned that life isn’t fair. That’s good no matter what anyone else may tell you. I think it far better to grasp that concept now, as compared to later in life. Arguably if she experiences set backs that are small and relatively insignificant like those described above, they’re pretty darned harmless, and provide a valuable lesson.

I learned that while I certainly was that parent no matter how I viewed myself, that I could keep a lid on it. After all, what does me being that parent teach my daughter? Here I am providing a critique of someone’s terribly flawed coaching philosophy and I’m prepared to blurt out a verbal beat down for a hundred people and a bunch of children to consume? What does that make me should I go through with my verbal scolding? I was glad I passed the first of what I’m guessing will be a series of tests on how to best conduct yourself when your kid is playing, or in this case not playing, a sport.

The most important part for me though? I came to a better and more centralized understanding of the responsibilities associated with edification. Is it really a 4th grade volleyball coach’s job to teach my daughter? Nope. Just like it isn’t the school’s job to teach my children. Sure, public school was mandated by Uncle Sam, but ultimately the burden and blessing of a child’s education rests with us, the parents. The strategy and tactics of the game I can leave mostly to the coaches, but the foundation of this act should be well within my purview as a parent, and I haven’t been doing it.

I ran across this article and found it apropos to this scenario. “7 habits of highly effective volleyball parents”

There is no discernible difference between taking responsibility for your daughter learning the basics of a fun game she might enjoy for years with her peers, and the requirement that I share the Gospel with my children in the full obligatory sense He intended. Just like the public school parallel, we’re fortunate to have churches, pastors, bible school teachers, awanas, vacation bible school, and so on. But… Ultimately, the duty to edify our children in Christ falls squarely on us.

You know what that means? In order to instruct others, we have to know the material first. I’m doing that with the Good Book, so I can be the proper leader of our family in this life’s mission. It looks like I have to learn a thing or two about volleyball now too. I can’t rely on others to do this, nor should I. It doesn’t matter what I think of the coaches. They volunteered for a chore of which I was unwilling, did they not? They gave up time and energy to coach a team, so I must remain cognizant of that fact. The truest solution is to work with my daughter and teach her. Maybe we’ll learn together. If she doesn’t want to play in this league in the future, or for these coaches, that’s OK. We started this, so we’re finishing it – no quitting. Who knows what the future brings. Besides, if and when she views with retrospect her volleyball days, whether few or many, do I prefer she has visions of a person she’s unlikely to even recall otherwise, or would that hindsight be the brighter for her folks to have spent time with her outdoors diving for digs that inevitably lead to a week of her Dad hobbling around and him lamenting he was too fat and old to do that stuff all while her Mom giggled? That choice is self evident.

You reckon a volleyball tattoo is going to far?

Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Be salt and seek light my friends. Please.

2 thoughts on “4th Grade Volleyball and the Edification Paradox…

  1. Good thoughts cousin, thanks for sharing. Theo will be moving up in the “ranks” a little this year with coach pitch baseball, great thoughts to keep things in perspective, not just in sports but in life. You are right, when you say that we the parents, and fathers have a responsibility to the teaching of our children, great reminder there as well. Thank you for your blog, I pray for you and the family, hopefully see you soon!

    1. Thanks for tuning in cuz… I often wonder if I reach anyone, ever. I know my pastor looks over my shoulder on this blog so to speak. If and when I get my Theology wrong or wander into false doctrine, he gut checks me. 😉

      I’m tickled you found value in it. See you soon… We need to get together down at the farm and put in some rifle time together…

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