Monday, December 9, 2019
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Dear Mr. Kuyper, I loved today’s column about the parent who wondered if playing on a lower team without his friends would be a good or bad experience.

Years ago, my daughter, a soccer player, decided to play on a U-14 volleyball team. The team had one player who was head and shoulders better than the rest of the team. As a volleyball coach, I wondered how this would all work out. As the season went on it was obvious that the better players had embraced her role as team leader. Rather than being annoyed when her teammates played at a level below hers, she encouraged them when they made mistakes and praised them when they did well. The team over achieved what any of us expected. At the end of the season I was talking to one of the girl’s parents and commented on how impressed I was with their daughter’s volleyball ability. I then told them that the volleyball ability, while very high, paled in comparison with how impressed I was with her as a person; as a leader. She had made my daughter’s experience a great one.
Joe Haas
Sioux Falls, SD

Thank you Joe. What a great experience for your daughter as well as the other girls on the team. I am sure the girls highly benefited from that experience.

First of all, I am sure that this talented player was experiencing and displaying humility in the best sense of the word. She had the opportunity to benefit others by not allowing her “pride” to get in the way of her influence and leadership. This is that step that many kids, because of lack of maturity would have a hard time making. It could have been easy to be embarrassed about not playing on a better team, or feel like playing at a lower skill level was a shot at her ego. It is so healthy for kids to realize that they are never too good for anyone else. What a great place to learn that you make friends, and people want to be with you because of humility. No one wants to hang out with a “bragger”, or someone who thinks that he/she is better than everyone else.

Secondly, it probably helped her to improve her own game and skill level. This is the perfect time to work on areas of weakness and practice them without the fear of failure. All those moves, hits or strategies that she always wanted to work on or perfect, were now a possibility. Imagine a basketball player working on going more to his left, or trying that new and creative move to the basket. What was difficult to do before, can now be practiced it in this situation.

Thirdly, what a great experience for your daughter and her teammates who now have someone that they can practice with and learn from without having to feel ashamed or embarrassed because of their inabilities or lack of experience.

The unselfish maturity of this young athlete created a perfect venue for the whole team to step out of their comfort zone and try new things as well. I am sure this also created in them the desire and motivation to improve and work extra hard to improve their own individual game.

Fourthly, I would imagine that they won a few more games or now raised their competitive level a notch or two so that games were now closer or more exciting. I know that winning is not the key here, but close, exciting games create more strategy, which creates more learning. It sounds like a great experience all around. This is another great example of how the attitude of one player can affect an entire team.

What a great lesson in humility: a humble spirit has many more benefits for everyone than a prideful spirit.

If you have comments or questions, you can email them to Tom Kuyper at:

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