My young sons both play hockey. We’ve had great experiences through the years seeing sportsmanship, team spirit and growth. But sometimes the sport, like many, can highlight competitiveness, blame, and winning at any cost.
Something happened recently that reminded me what sport can also bring out… compassion and connection.
My 10-year-old son was playing in a local hockey tournament. There was a skills competition and after it was over the captain of our team noticed a boy he didn’t know from one of the other teams crying in the change room. Our team captain went over to the boy and asked him what was wrong. The boy said his team came last in the relay (a competition he didn’t realize he had to compete in) and he felt it was all his fault.
Our young captain was quick to tell him he shouldn’t blame himself. It wasn’t his fault. He had done his best which was all anyone could ask for.
This made the boy feel better (and made his mother cry). You see, what our captain couldn’t have known was that the boy he complimented used to play at a much higher level in hockey, but a genetic disease led to hip surgery which ended up paralyzing him. He thought he would never play hockey again. He had worked hard and made it back to a team, but he still had trouble with speed and getting up when he fell.
The mom of the boy who was cheered up by our team captain was so touched that she emailed the head of our hockey association and things went a little viral from there. The story was in a major newspaper a few days ago and our coach was interviewed on the radio, too.
Remember, these are 10-year-old boys. Who can teach us a lot about empathy, saying what you need to say, never giving up and making a difference.
We have invited the boy from the other team to be an honorary member of our team and he is attending our practice this week where all the kids will celebrate the new friendship over pizza.
Maya Angelou once shared that, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” A few kind words from a young boy made a world of difference.
And in the words of Anne Frank, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before beginning to improve the world.”