No Foul

My children play sports. My husband has coached them since they were big enough to kick, throw or catch a ball. He loves being outside with them, and he lives in constant “dad coach” mode, giving them pointers, encouragement and ideas to improve.

My older two boys play fairly competitive level sports and there seems to be increasing competitiveness, passion, fight, and drive.

I suspect like most parents of kids who play sports, it can be a bit rough at times.

Sports also can provide such valuable life lessons.

My boys often get fouled. Sometimes a player goes a little too far, and the foul seems intentional. Words are muttered, elbows are thrown, trips from behind occur. It’s a fine line between in the heat-of-the-game-accidental-over-aggression, and you’re-frustrating-me-so-I’m-going-to-hurt-you tactics.

As a parent, I have seen my boys get fouled, and foul right back.

Often, after the game my husband tells them tips to improve. One of the things I have heard him say over and over is this:

Do not deliver a retaliatory foul. You will be the one to get a worse call and be punished more than the player who fouls you. The retaliator always gets the foul call, not the instigator. Keep your emotions in check, stand your ground, but Do. Not. Retaliate.

In other words, stay strong, stand still, and do not lash out when provoked.

Good advice, eh?

I can think of so many times I have been fouled in life. Most of the time it was not intentional. Sometimes it definitely was.

There have been times I have fouled right back. Reacted in anger or frustration. Retaliated before thinking. Sometimes we are so shocked by the sting, we lash right back, not thinking of the consequences. In these instances, I have always regretted it.

I think – being my own referee – that when I retaliate against someone for the wrong they’ve done, well, I typically wish I hadn’t.

Don’t misunderstand me; I am not saying to back down. As my husband says, stand your ground. Don’t flinch. But don’t retaliate the foul. Just stand.

I never have regretted standing still.

One of the best things I see on the field or court is when one player fouls another player and reaches down immediately to help the fouled player back on his feet.

Isn’t that a great life lesson?

Sometimes we knock each other on the ground. Sometimes we don’t mean to.

So here’s a thought:

The next time you foul someone, reach down and help them up.

The next time you are fouled, stand.

Remain still.

Gather your wits and thoughts. Resist retaliation.

Then keep on playing the game.

You might just win.