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Tonight, I am thankful for opportunities to learn good sportsmanship.

Ben’s football team has been playing very well this season.  They had won the first four games handily, and haven’t let the other teams score.  Today’s game was against another undefeated team…one that beat our boys last year, and one that is led by a coach that can be really nasty.  He has recruited a team of boys that are much larger, and that are right on the cusp of going to the next age level.

Because the two teams were both undefeated, this was an important game for both teams.  Both will be in the play-offs, but points scored factor into standings, as well as the win/loss records.

Going into tonight’s game, Ben knew that he might not play much.  He’s been starting all season at center, even though he’s one of the smaller boys on the team.  The Rage is made up of much larger boys, and our coaches felt that they needed to put our biggest kids on the line.

It was a tough game.  The Rage got out in front early, and our defense spent a lot of time on the field.  It was frustrating for the boys, for the coaches and for the parents.

By the end of the game, the score was 24-0.  It got down to the last minute, and we had the ball.  Ben got to go in on the offensive line.  The boys drove the ball down the field, and on a long pass that bounced off of the hands of a defensive player, one of our boys scored a touchdown.  With the option to go for two extra points, the Titans finished out the game with 8 points.

After the game, the two teams lined up to shake hands.  The Rage’s coach stopped our coach and did some last trash talking.  We couldn’t hear exactly what was said, but our coach was clearly disgusted.

To his credit, he came back to the post-game huddle and was wonderful with the boys.  He took the opportunity to tell the boys how proud he was of them, and of the fact that they never gave up.  To see them keep working, keep trying and to come up with a touchdown in the last minute of the game was a testament to their spirit.

One of the reasons that we chose this team for Ben was for this style of coaching.  Football is so competitive, and there are so many alpha dog coaches out there.  Our coach is not like that.  He rarely has to raise his voice, and he and his coaching staff are constantly saying a kind word to the boys, even while giving them direction to correct a mistake.  Our coach takes every opportunity to teach the boys and to show them how to conduct themselves with class and sportsmanship.  Though they lost tonight, not one boy went home defeated.

I saw the posts that Ben put up on Facebook after the game.  He mentioned that he’d been angry that he hadn’t played much tonight; but, he’d come to realize that the coaches were trying to do what was best for the team.  In the comments back and forth with other people, he worked through the disappointment of the loss and limited playing time, and circled around to congratulating the Rage players that he knows and his teammates for a hard-fought game.

Tonight, I’m thankful for the opportunity that Ben has to learn the value of being a good sport.  It is something that will serve him well throughout his life.

I’m participating in #30daysofThanks, inspired by my friend, Amanda, over at www.memydogsmylife.com.  We are finding one thing each day in November to be grateful for.  Join in!  Just use the tag #30daysofThanks and blog or Tweet your daily item.