Keeping it classy

Editor's Note
Thursday, October 24, 2019
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This is probably not surprising, but I never wanted to compete in high school sports.

I was a nerd. I did speech and drama, drama club, students against drunk driving, student council and a whole host of other nerdy academic-type extracurricular activities.

But when I was a junior I had a crush on a total hottie. He was a senior, tall and a basketball player, and in a move completely out of character he joined the tennis team. So yes, I was about to engaged in a little light high school-style stalking. I hatched a plan to spend some time with Mr. Hottie. I was going to become a tennis player. There was just one caveat, I had no clue how to play tennis.

Thankfully, Bernice Cook was coaching and she made sure to spend time with all of the new players explaining the rules, the odd scoring system and how to properly hold our racquets. Of course, I was on the junior varsity team, but thanks to her mentorship and patience I ended up as part of the top doubles team on the JV roster.

I felt a change in my personality, something happened and it was alarming to me. I became much more competitive than I had ever been in the classroom or on the speech and drama team. I wanted to win.

My foray into competitive sports felt short and I didn’t get the guy. He graduated and moved away, but the next season I was ready to improve my game.

I had strep throat during the first week of the season and to my despair I was told I couldn’t join the team because I missed too many practices. Just like that my journey in athletics was over, but something stayed with me: the desire to be the best.

I’ve harnessed that desire in my personal and professional life many times, and it usually served me well. Every once in a while I would go overboard, especially in my 20s when my personality was really intense. The need to be the best, to outshine everyone around me, sometimes left me isolated with a reputation for being difficult or bossy.

I could spend hours waxing philosophical about how those descriptors are just ways for a patriarchal society to keep down strong women, but I would be lying to myself if I didn’t admit that at times I was a bear to work with.

I’ve learned to be a little more nuanced in my attempt to be the best and I’ve learned to forgive myself when I don’t hit the mark. I still have moments when I am difficult. I know enough to let some stuff slide, because not everyone is in the same place when it comes to managing their competitive nature. But something needs to be addressed.

After a hard-won victory over the Forsyth Dogies, the fans and family of the Lodge Grass team made their way onto the football field to celebrate with their boys. I was right there with them cheering for my son and getting pictures of him with his grandparents, aunties and teammates.

After a few minutes the crowd was approached by a coach from Forsyth and told to get off the field. I have a big mouth, so I said, “Why? We are celebrating.”

He went on to tell me that his team had business to tend to on the field and we can celebrate somewhere else and we should, “Keep it classy.”

He did not say that we weren’t classy per se, but I know the implication when I hear it. I went straight into momma bear mode and was ready to rip him a new one, but I stopped myself. It’s not my place to teach someone to lose gracefully, because I am not his mother or his boss.

What I can say is that every week I’ve seen the football players from Lodge Grass go out there and lose more games than they’ve won, but when that last buzzer sounds they leave it all on the field. They shake hands after the game, win or lose, with cool heads and smiles on their faces.

So to that coach, who may not be able to manage his competitive nature, I say, “Yes.”

Yes, we are classy and yes, we will stay that way. We could have been petty and rude, but as football parents and fans we cheered for our boys, not against your boys. We celebrated our boys’ victory, not your boys’ loss. And at every game, when that last buzzer sounds, we leave it on the field. Maybe you should, too.