I was at the last basketball game of my son’s high school career, two weeks ago. They finished 6th, losing in the final seconds of their second game to the team that went on to win the championship. It was a sad day for me and for my wife. Not just because we lost, but because we weren’t going to watch our kids play on high school teams anymore.

“Are you going to keep watching next year after Sam has graduated?” Some parents asked me at half-time. “Absolutely,” I said, “I love this team and I love our fans!”

Not just part of the game

Later in the game, a person from another school who was sitting beside me asked, “So, I don’t get it; why don’t your fans yell at the refs? And why not yell at the other players when they shoot free throws or air balls? That might make the opposition play worse and you could win. Obviously the refs aren’t calling all the fouls. Look, five fouls for your team, one foul for the other. Yell at the refs and maybe they’ll smarten up! It’s all part of the game.” He watches his son play high school ball and the parents from his school cheer a lot differently, he explained.

I tried to point out that we have a different philosophy. I also tried to explain that I’ve worn the striped shirt and it is harder to officiate a basketball game than most people realize.

Also, I pointed to the BC School Sports banner on the wall which states, “Be respectful and encouraging to the players, referees, coaches, and other fans.”

“Oh, I am. I am respecting and encouraging my team. That’s my definition anyhow. If we get too obnoxious they would say something. No one ever does. Yelling and screaming is part of the experience.  All of our parents do it,” he explained emphatically, “we’re famous for it.”

Cheering and encouraging

Some better judgement inside me suggested I should drop this conversation. It wasn’t going anywhere good, fast. But I have thought about this quite a bit over the past two weeks, and I think there is more to this than most people think.

I’ve sat through a lot of volleyball and basketball games in the past 15 years as I watched my three children play in tournaments, league games and provincial championships. Through the years, I’ve been equally impressed with the sportsmanship of the cheering, as I have been with the sportsmanship of our teams. It doesn’t just show up on the floor. It sits in the stands too.

It wasn’t lost on me that, at half-time, I asked the parent in front of me, also a Christian school parent from the school we were playing, if their school was going on any trips over spring break. “Oh yes, several of the boys on the team are going to Esperanza to help with the work there with First Nations people. It’s great,” she explained.

I thought to myself, if I had yelled and screamed at her boys or the refs, would it really fit for me to encourage her at half time for the work their school was doing to serve others on Vancouver Island? There is more here than we may realize.

Why I keep showing up

When we ‘cheer for, not against’, we make a statement about what we believe about people and what we believe about competition.

We believe that everyone deserves respect. We believe that we don’t just compete, we also represent.

We want to play the game the way we want others to play the game with us.  We want to cheer the way we hope other teams will cheer. We want to be known as a school that treats people with encouragement and respect, all the time.

And that’s just one more reason I’m going to keep showing up to ACS games to cheer for our Knights, long after my youngest child has graduated from our school.

Time to start cheering for the track and field team…or the soccer team…or the golf team.

How do we cheer for golf?