Two Extremes

| by Shannon Williams

I am fortunate to be surrounded in both my professional and personal life by people and organizations who are focused on doing good and helping others. Every day I see selfless acts in response to the needs of neighbors and complete strangers. Often these acts are done behind the scenes with great humility. I know it is a gift to see this beautiful side of humanity on a daily basis, and I am truly grateful.

On the other extreme, I am the parent of two boys who play AAU basketball. Before I offer any comparisons, let me say that our boys have been coached by men of integrity and we are thankful.

Unfortunately honor, integrity and sportsmanship are in short supply in this basketball environment.

As I write this blog my oldest son is preparing to play in a tournament in Myrtle Beach. The verbal attacks that officials, coaches, and players will endure will not be life-threatening like the recent shark attacks, but they will be frightening nonetheless—a frightening commentary on our society.

Over the past three seasons as an AAU parent, I have witnessed adults (parents and coaches) taunting kids (teenagers and younger) on opposing teams while the game is being played. I have watched parents berate their own children for poor performances. I have seen parents and officials come to near physical altercations during contests. And, I have repeatedly watched middle school and high school boys treat their opponents and officials with complete disrespect.

Perhaps most disturbing to me is that when these young men are called for technical fouls because of their lack of sportsmanship, coaches do not even take them out of the game. The bad behavior is not even acknowledged let alone corrected.

Unfortunately all that I described is regular and expected behavior in this basketball world. I know I will see this in Myrtle Beach as I have at every other tournament for three years. My husband and I will continue to work hard to teach our sons that men of honor and integrity do not act this way—ever.

It makes me even more thankful for the non-profit organizations that our children volunteer with, the coaches they have learned from, the positive school families they are a part of and the faith community that continually helps us shepherd them to become honorable young men.

I am thankful for the non-profit and faith partners that I am privileged to walk alongside in small ways to help them do good in our community. Every single one of them is discussed at our dinner table at some point, and our boys experience the beautiful side of humanity from those stories.

During AAU basketball tournaments and at other times when people are rude, self-absorbed, and unkind, I am thankful to know—really know first-hand—that there is another side, another way and it is rooted in kindness and compassion. Thanks to all of you who have given me hope and provided wonderful examples to our children. Keep up the good work and stay clear of the sharks.

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