The morning was just about perfect, in a Goldilocks kinda way. A little overcast, so as not to be too hot, but not too cool as well. The players milled around, juggling balls with knees, chest, feet. Each coach giving their last minute motivation, to the rapt attention of eleven year olds. The first half was dominated by the team in Spain colors. The other team, dressed in purple, could do very little right; no energy, no shot, they might as well have passed the ball and sat down. In what could have been much more lopsided, the half time score was 3-0.
Their coach never gave up on them. I began to watch him halfway through the first half when I heard his cheering for the opponents goalie. The goalie had just made a great save of one of their few shots on goal, and the coach yelled "Great Save!" Being competitive, this threw me for a loop. What coach encourages his opponent.
He did not limit his praise to his opponent, but gave it liberally to everyone on the field. When one of his players would run off after a substitution, he would kneel down and talk to them, giving them pointers and encouragement. When his team was getting blasted on the field, he kept his cool and kept it fun for his kids.
I don't know if the Spain team felt they were far enough ahead, but the second half was like watching Stallone in a boxing ring with Dolph Lundren. You could almost hear the soundtrack in the background as the team slowly crawled back into the game. They scored their first goal on a break away, 3-1...a few minutes later, some fancy passing and teamwork made it 3-2...the air was alive with energy and with 30 seconds to go, the goalie dove one way, while the ball went the other...3-3. Players leaped into the air, wanting to pull their shirt off and dash to mid-field.
As fun as it was to watch the game, the coaches chatter had seized my attention. The game ended in a tie, and I watched as he went to the opposing team, sharing a word with each boy as they shook hands, commenting on something specific they did good. As much as he had showed his players he believed in them during the game, well before the comeback was on, he showed the other team what it meant to care more for them than the outcome of the game.
When winning becomes greater than the people, who is left to cheer for you?