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Yesterday Simon played in two soccer games. His team won the first game 2-0 and lost the second 0-10. Can you guess which performance I was the proudest of?

If you guessed the epic beat-down, you are correct. Here’s what happened: Simon’s full roster showed up for the first game, played hard, and pulled off a solid victory over a well matched team from southern Indiana. The boys were so excited and proud!

Ten minutes later, a second LSA (Louisville Soccer Alliance, Simon’s club) team was due to play a team from Mockingbird Sports Complex (the outdoor, competitive version of where Simon plays indoors). With only five minutes to go before the game was set to begin, a group of us realized that Coach Duke was sitting on the sidelines with just 2 other boys. Where was our team? We needed four more to field a team and more than that to have any hope of substitutions.

And so, 4 out of 6 families still on the field patted their sons on the back, handed them back their water, and sent them over to play their second game of the morning with no rest and no lunch in between (it was noon by now). They were all running on empty, but it was the right thing to do for the club and the league.

So of course the Mockingbird team had to be their oldest, fastest, and best crew. All but one of their kids looked to be nine already; we fielded two 7-year-olds playing up. Their kids were fresh; our kids had heavy legs. Their team was one that frequently plays up in the U-10 division; we had a tired, second-string group out there.

Basically, they were older than us, taller than us, faster than us, and better than us. Even their uniforms were sharper. It was like watching a college team play against Real Madrid. They scored three times in the opening 5 minutes before their coach put restrictions on the players to keep the score at 10-0 instead of, say, 50-0. It was one for the history books.

We parents were all overjoyed when the final whistle blew. The boys from the first game were exhausted, walking slowly on heavy legs and red faced from heat and exhaustion. Simon was near tears and limping slightly. What a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

But the other way to look at this, and the thing we all told the boys, was that regardless of the scoreline, they should be proud of themselves for doing the right thing and giving it their all. There’s no shame in losing to a better team, especially when you already played (and won!) your scheduled game. Coach Duke told the boys to keep their heads up, have fun, and play the game they love the best they could. The LSA parents talked about how we were all proud of them for making sure our club didn’t forfeit a game and for not having the Mockingbird team show up for naught. To their immense credit, the Mockingbird coach and parents put restrictions on the boys and offered only the most muted of goal celebrations.

I think we all demonstrated good sportsmanship. And at least half of us took our kids out for ice cream—and whatever else they wanted—after the beat-down. The only negative feelings I’m left with are those for the parents who blew off a game without alerting the coach.

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