As an official, I have the benefit of seeing immediate behavior changes as a direct result of my calls. Blow the whistle and play stops. Warn the kids to ease up rough play, and they do. Such immediate gratification comes with the job. As a parent, however, this is not always the case. Aside from adoption of safety rules such as "wear your seatbelt!", or "look both ways before crossing the street!", we might witness the demonstration of values such as honesty, integrity, or good sportsmanship over time and only in certain circumstances.
Some years ago, I organized several youth sports events aimed at developing good sportsmanship in youth and coaches. Much of this was done in honor of my late husband who was a youth league coach and believed in using sports to teach kids life lessons. Good sportsmanship and fun were the consistent messages and while I knew the kids had fun, it was only until a few months ago that I realized my efforts had any impact.
I met a dad while shopping at a local grocery store a few months ago, who said that while we were not immediately acquainted, he had seen my name and that I was associated with youth sports and he wanted to thank me for my efforts. Yesterday, he sent me an email regarding a fundraiser that he and his son conducted over Labor Day. This chance meeting and email from a person that I had never met before was an unexpected and poignant gift.
"I'm writing you to share word of something my 12 year old son, Will, is working on. Like you he is trying to connect sports and charity as perhaps only a little boy can...." The email went on to describe a unique father/son free throw shooting marathon that over Labor Day weekend and 50 hours of shooting hoops in the rain, Will raised $36,000 for the Navy SEALS Foundation. I was honored to be credited with influencing Will and his vision and determination, "You, as your late husband did, make a difference in ways that can be hard to discern."
This was a Polaroid moment for me. A moment of clarity that, like the camera, took time --in this case, 6 years to develop. While my intended goal was to foster fun and good sportsmanship, what instead developed was something even more powerful: A loving father and son team using basketball to unselfishly serve the needs of others.
This inspiring event is reason enough for me, and hopefully all of us to continue believing and doing what is right, helping others play hard, fair and safe and know that the goodness of our efforts will take root and blossom in beautiful and unimaginable ways. Just give it time.