Sunday, August 17, 2014

Fair Play

Douglas Winslow Cooper and Brian Maher

“Mr. Williams, I want to speak with you,” said the mother of Aaron, one of the kids on the fourth-grade, week-end soccer team that Mr. W. coached.
“Sure. What about?”
“Why didn’t you play Aaron as much as some of the other kids?”

“I did play him half the game, as our AYSO rules specify.”

“Yes, but you played other boys more, including your own son, Tim.”

“True, but I play the better players more, and I also keep track of who comes to the practices. Aaron is pretty good, has missed some practices, and played about as much as other kids of similar skill.”

“That’s not fair. They all want to play, and they should play about he same amount each.”

“I understand your opinion, but I don’t agree. I think the better players and those who attend practices regularly should be rewarded with more playing time. Making sure every player plays at least half the game seems fair enough to me.”

“You won the game 3-2. Didn’t that allow you to substitute more?”

“No. In soccer, a goal can be scored suddenly, and if they had scored, the game would have been tied.”

“Then everyone would have been happy.”

“Not really. A common sports saying is, ’A tie is like kissing your sister.’ Do you see how hard the kids play? They are trying to win, and as long as they play fair, I am happy to see them do that.”

“Who cares who wins the game?” Aaron’s mother questioned.

“Well, it means less to you or me than it does to some of the players, but their feelings count, too.”

“Would you have played Aaron more if you were way ahead or way behind?”

“Yes. It would have been good experience for him, and he would not have been in danger of losing the game for the team, which would have displeased at least some of his teammates.”

“I don’t agree with you. I think all the boys should get equal playing time.”

“Next year, you or your husband are welcome to take the job of being a coach for the boys, and you can run the team as you see fit. This year, it is my role and my rules.”

Later, when Mr. Williams told his wife what happened, she agreed with him, “Aaron really needs to improve if he is to keep up with the other boys. He needs to ‘walk before he can run,’ needs to work on improving his skills before expecting to play a lot or be a star.”

“I could have told his mother that, but I did not want to hurt their feelings. I knew I was within the rules and was doing what I thought was right. I had the final say, the power as coach. As Theodore Roosevelt advised, I spoke softly but carried a big stick…the power to decide how much paying time each boy would get.”

“Just like former President Teddy Roosevelt, eh?” Mrs. W. kidded her husband. “Perhaps this position of great power is going to your head.”

“Well, my love, they say ‘there is no “I” in ‘team’ but I see that there is ‘me’ in manager…somewhere.”

“Yes, there’s an ‘m’ and an ‘e’ in ‘manager’…and a ‘nag,’” she teased.

“Even a good thing can be overdone,” Mr. W. admitted, deciding not to try to come up with another old saying in reply.


One of our fifty instructive short stories primarily for young readers.

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