A Lesson Learned

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No matter where you go in New England, there are many things that become similar from state to state, town to town. Growing up in Connecticut, it has become apparent that many houses within the small towns, cities, and suburbs of the state all have much in common. White picket fences, mini-vans, “soccer moms”, golden retrievers. Oak trees, porch swings, young children, and mostly, soccer. This is the typical lifestyle of families in Connecticut, and New England. As I was growing up in Connecticut, soccer was always a central theme that carried on throughout my childhood, as it is for almost every family in New England. Although I wasn’t a star soccer athlete myself, my family life still revolved around the sport, as my older brother, Matthew, played throughout elementary school, middle school, and into high school, with my father as his coach at Valley Regional High School. My older sister, Caroline, also played, though she stopped after elementary school.

I remember a particular instance in which my mother, sister and I were in the bleachers at one of Matthew’s high school soccer games. I was about four, my sister six. I gazed, dumfounded at the field, not quite knowing what was going on, but pretending that I did. One of the offensive players on the opposing team threw himself at one of the players from Valley, slide-tackling him to the ground. However intentional or unintentional this may have been, I do not know. But watching this occur did not sit right with me. I turned to my mother and asked her why he had done that, and my sister - always acting superior to me, just like any other older sibling – turned to me and told me to stop being a baby. My mother however, brushed it off by telling me that this was just how the game is played. This should have been the end of conversation between the two of us, but this answer did not satisfy me. In my young mind, I was sure that the opposing team had done this on purpose, and was trying to hurt everyone on our team. I worried that Matt would be next to fall a victim to the wrath of the other team. I looked back onto the field to see the Valley Regional player sprawled on the ground, clutching his knee, with a look of excruciating pain on his face, while the opposing player who had knocked him down kneeled on one knee, like the others. When I looked at his face, I didn’t see a cocky grin or an innocent “I didn’t do it” look, like I expected. But I saw an expression of guilt and sorrow. He looked like he was truly apologetic for injuring another player. When the trainer announced to the Valley player that he was sure that he’d need surgery to fix his knee, the pain in his face, if possible, grew and got worse, and the guilt in the face of the opposing player became more apparent. I realized at this time that the opposing team had not shown up today to destroy and injure every player on our team. They had come to win, just like our team had. The Valley team did end up winning that day, though short of their starting defender. After the game, I noticed that the player who had tackled our player approached the parents of the injured boy, and actually apologized for it. Even though I was so young at the time, I can still remember this instance quite vividly, and now as I am recalling it, I know that he was very mature, and wanted to pay for his mistake, even though it may have been unintentional. This experience, though some people wouldn’t give it a second thought, really impacted my life for the better. I learned through this experience that when you’re playing a sport, maturity is an important attribute to have and to give to your team.

That evening, I spoke to my father about this particular situation, and I wanted to know his opinion from a coach’s standpoint. He told me that he knew that that boy from the other team would be okay, and the guilt would go away. When I asked him how he knew, he kind of smiled and thought about it for a minute or two. “Because,” my dad said,”he did something wrong, a mistake, and made it right again.” I thought about this, and being the stubborn little kid that I was, still needed to know more. “It’s like this.” My dad said, his big hand on my small shoulder, “if you do something wrong, whether its an accident or on purpose, you can gain forgiveness from the other person, if you can be mature and make up for it. But, if you act childish and tell everyone it wasn’t your fault, when it obviously was, no one is going to trust you, and no one is going to forgive you.” I smiled, thanked him and walked away from the conversation, and from the situation feeling as if I had more knowledge than ever.





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