Today was a great day for Jacob and his friends as their Grade 5 Boys’ Volleyball team won the championship in the CISVA (Catholic Independent Schools Vancouver Association) Tournament. That means that they were the best team of the 40 Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Vancouver – a great feat to be sure!
The team went undefeated in their three matches at the Harry Jerome Sports Complex in Burnaby by beating St. Andrew School, Our Lady of Sorrows School (not “Old Lady of Sorrows” as Jacob thought), and Holy Cross School en route to the championship. All three matches were quite competitive and full of impressive volleyball – especially for 10 year-olds.
The day was actually a family affair as Gail was there doubling as a scorekeeper and teacher sponsor, and Sean was there with his Grade 7 Boys’ team – they ended up finishing a respectable sixth just one year after winning the silver medal. Kudos to them for not just one great year of volleyball but a great three years.
I ended up serving as the Head Coach for the first two matches as the regular Head Coach Mr. Kelly had to coach the Grade 6 team at the same time. It was a wonderful experience for me and a test of my patience, passion, and pastoral skills. Thankfully, Mr. Kelly was able to join us for the finals and I took my rightful place at the end of the bench haha.
But it was what happened AFTER the tournament had ended that will have a profound effect on me. And no, I’m not talking about the realization that I won’t have to get up for 7:30am practices three times a week any more.
During the presentation of the gold medals, we discovered that they were short medals. They only had 12 medals to distribute, but Jake’s team comprised of 15 players (plus the two coaches). Thus, three of the players would not get to take a medal home with them.
Jake was one of the 12 players fortunate enough to receive a medal on the spot. However, one of the three boys who didn’t receive one took it quite hard and started to cry profusely – likely because he really wanted to have one (and rightfully so – remember – these are 10 year-olds). After a few minutes, we were able to calm him down just in time for the picture taking.
Once the pictures were done, I saw Jake – with little prompting – approach the boy and offer his medal to him. Jake’s teammate was extremely touched and said, “Thank you Jake…that means a lot” as he accepted the medal and gave Jake a big hug. I felt tears well up in my eyes as I witnessed the beautiful exchange and I felt a strong surge of pride overcome me.
This was Jake’s first athletic championship – at any level – and I knew how much it meant to him. When it comes to sports, he’s lived in Sean’s shadow for the majority of his childhood. He doesn’t possess Sean’s natural ability or knowledge of sports. But he sure makes up for it with his heart, his try, and his mouth.
Sure enough, as we returned home, I noticed that Jake was a bit down – certainly not behaviour you’d expect from someone who just won a gold medal. In pressing him to tell me what was wrong, he admitted that he was having second thoughts about his gesture because he’d be one of the only boys without a medal the next day at school.
“It doesn’t matter, Jake,” I assured him. “Mr. Kelly will get you a medal in time for next week’s assembly.”
“Are you sure, Dad?” he asked.
“Of course. More importantly: I am so proud of you. What you did today was more important than any game or any championship. You were unselfish and you modeled wonderful Christian values. You looked out for one of your friends and I know that he’ll never forget what you did for him. I know that I won’t.”
“Thanks Dad,” Jake said as he gave me a hug.
No, thank you, Jake. In literally taking one for the team, you taught me a valuable life lesson.
You’re definitely a winner: both on and off the court.