The Lesson Our Kids Must Learn From Rivalry Games

This past weekend is known throughout college football as Rivalry Weekend. The reason is simple – many of the great college football rivalry games were played on Saturday. Our son Tana plays for the Washington State University Cougars. We had the privilege of attending his game against arch rival Washington. Because it was so close in proximity to Thanksgiving our family decided to turn the game into a family weekend. Two years ago in 2012 we took a similar trip for the same reason and were rewarded with a huge Cougar win in overtime. It was so much fun to rush the field and celebrate with all of Cougar nation. Now in 2014 we had great anticipation and hope of another clutch Cougar win and a chance to, at least momentarily, forget our season of disappointment. So Wednesday after school (half day) we loaded up the van with kids, luggage, food, and snacks to make the five hour drive to Pullman Washington. A chance to watch Pac 12 football and more importantly a teachable moment for my kids!
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Family – the best way to keep athletics in perspective.
I’d love to tell you about the excitement of once again pouring out of the stands and onto the frozen turf of Martin Stadium. Unfortunately (at least for the Cougars) the Huskies of Washington were the clear victors on this night. I’m a football coach, so I watched the game and saw several key plays that could have made a difference for the Cougars. There was an early drop by a Cougar receiver in the end zone that might have swung momentum. To be fair, the UW too had some early drops that could have more quickly buried WSU. I have to be honest, it is always hard to watch your team (I also played football for Washington State) lose, but doubly difficult when it’s against your rival. After all this meant for the next 365 days I would be surrounded by Husky “friends” anxious to remind me of how poorly our season went. At least a win would have provided a modicum of protection against their hazing. It’s tough being a Cougar on the westside of the state.
As the outcome of the game became more and more apparant I noticed my youngest three children watching me to see how I would react. They were there two years ago when we stormed the field. Today there would be no celebration and to add insult to injury it was freezing!!! Five degrees!!! Seriously?!?! But we stayed until the bitter end (pun intended). I wanted my kids to learn one of the most valuable lessons in all  of athletics to learn. I wanted my kids to know we practice hard, we compete hard, we do everything within the rules of the game to succeed, but at the end of the day, it’s still just a game! I still hate losing to those guys – but what’s happening in Liberia, what’s happening in Ferguson, what was happening back home where my high school classmate was burying his father – that’s important!
My hats off to Chris Peterson and the Washington Huskies. They played hard and deserved to win that football game. I’m especially grateful that coach Peterson is one of those coaches committed to playing the game the right way (although it makes it harder to hate his team). But at the end of the day its a game. We implement the 24 hour rule and move on. I’ll live with the harassment, in fact because I lost a bet I have to wear a Husky shirt to church. I tried to convince him that purple just doesn’t go with anything in my wardrobe!!! But my kids leave the weekend having enjoyed time with the family and having learned a valuable lesson for life!
What was the hardest loss you or your kids ever endured? What did you do to help your kids get through the experience?