Sunday, April 29, 2007

Patience Report #5: Soccer Game Blow-up

Did you wonder if I’d given up on my personal patience plan? I must say that the idea is often tempting. Especially when I’m coaching my daughter’s soccer team. Take yesterday for example. We played a game in Logan at 2 o’clock. It started out fine, but between the sun beating down and the coach of the other team, I guess you could say that I got a little overheated.

Mr. Coach’s two older kids had refereed the previous game at the field, and a couple of the referees for our game were their friends. No problem. The problem was that the referee on the side of the field where they were and where I sat was a new ref. This was only the second game he’d reffed, and Mr. Coach and his children seemed to constantly question his calls and even went to far as to tell him what to call.

Now, I know that many fans at sporting events like to tell officials how to call the game, but in this case, the poor ref caved-in to their tactics. Mr. Coach asked if the ref was going to call off-sides on an indirect kick. The young referee looked baffled and after Mr. Coach told him that you can’t call off-sides from an indirect kick, the referee said he wouldn’t call off-sides. Mr. Coach then yells at all his girls to head toward the goal – even though the kick is from mid-field.

I couldn’t stand by and let Mr. Coach misinform our ref, so I said, “You’re kidding, right? Stop coaching the ref and just coach your girls. And don’t play dumb. Of course he’s going to call off-sides.”

If that were all I’d said to the other coach I wouldn’t be writing this patience report. No, as he continued to coach the ref, I asked him again to please stop coaching the ref. My tone of voice wasn’t nice. I was disgusted. In fact, you could say that he brought out the mother bear in me. Here are my girls running their guts out in the hot sun, really playing with heart, and the other team’s coach is getting the ref to make calls totally in his favor that aren’t even correct. I felt it was unfair to my players.

What really sent me over the edge was when one of Mr. Coach’s players kicked a ball off our goal post and it rolled in front of the goal line. (My own daughter was the goalie. That might have had something to do with my reaction.) Mr. Coach and his off-duty referee kids immediately began yelling at the ref that it should have been a goal. I became flabbergasted when play stopped and it looked like the refs might actually reconsider their original call of “no goal.” I was livid. “Just
SHUT UP!” I yelled. “It’s not your call. Quit telling the refs what to do.”

While I directed my comments to Mr. Coach, both his kids and the parents of his players responded to my anger. Let me just say that it was a very hostile environment. I tried to explain my frustration at having calls changed because the coach was telling the ref what to do, but no one from the other team seemed to care. They just looked at me like I was going postal.

I heard one woman say, “You’ve really got a temper problem, but at least you don’t take it out on your girls.”


I left the game feeling awful. To some extent I was uncomfortable with the reaction my comments had stirred, but mostly I was disappointed in myself for having lost my cool. Really, if I had been coaching from the other side of the field, would I have said those things? Did what I say change the outcome of the game? And what kind of an example was I setting for the eleven- and twelve-year-old girls that I coach? Let me just say that I went home riding a roller coaster of emotions.

Once home, the big item on my to-do list was prepare my gospel doctrine Sunday school lesson. Great. Nothing like losing your temper to set the right tone for teaching a lesson about the life of the Savior. I gave myself a little time, took a shower, called a friend, and eventually sat down to organize a teaching outline for Sunday’s lesson. The words of the scriptures began to soften my heart, began to even out my emotions. I read in John 8:12, “. . . I am the light of the world: he
that followeth me shall not walk in darkness . . .” and my outlook brightened.

Fast forward to this morning. I’m getting ready for church. Thinking about the lesson that I’ll give. Still bothered by my actions from the soccer game. Remembering my plan to practice patience this year and conceding another failed attempt. I acknowledge that I have yet another wrong to repent of.

There was a part of me that wanted to be right. Wanted vindication. Did I really feel sorry for my outburst? Was I truly repentant? I decided that I was, and as I thought about taking the sacrament in a little over an hour I realized that repentance involves more than just feeling sorry. I also needed to make restitution. The thought came that I ought to call Mr. Coach and apologize.

I can’t say that once I hit upon the idea of calling to apologize that I felt better. If anything, I felt worse. It reminded me of the time from my childhood that I’d taken candy bars out of the neighbors freezer and then had to go and confess my deed and pay them back for the candy bar. Standing on their front porch made my stomach churn, and reaching out to push the doorbell scared me to death. When their mom answered the door I thought I’d die of embarrassment. But somehow I got my confession out and paid my quarter.

This morning was no different from when I was four years old. My stomach felt unsettled as I searched through the papers of my soccer folder to find Mr. Coach’s number. I dialed it and wondered if he’d even be home, almost hoped that he wouldn’t be. He was, and when I had him on the line I felt dumb and a bit nervous.

I came straight to the point. “Hi, this is the coach from the team you played yesterday. I just wanted to call and apologize for my behavior. I’m really sorry.”

The man was very nice. He even tried to make me feel better by saying that competition can bring out the worst in anyone. I assured him that when we met again I’d do better. He said that he would too.

The experience was so positive that I used it to end my Sunday school lesson. We’d just spent class talking about Christ being the light of the world. We’d read where he’d said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. . . . Verily, verily I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. . . . If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8:32, 34, 36)

I can honestly say that after making that phone call this morning, I felt lighter. It was as if a weight had been removed. I no longer was plagued with dark thoughts of doubt about whether I’d been in the right. I wasn’t weighed down by regret. I felt free!

I’m grateful for the process of repentance and the miracle of Christ’s atonement. Because of it I can use Saturday’s loss of patience as a learning experience. I can remember how I felt before repenting and contrast that to the light and freedom I felt afterwards. I’m sure I’ll still struggle with patience, but through Christ I can repent and eventually overcome my weakness.

Stay tuned. It may take a while.

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