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[Originally posted Dec 8, 2004)

My daughter’s U-13 CAA (Christian Athletic Association) Fire travel soccer team just returned from a fun-filled weekend outdoor tournament at Virginia Beach.

As the Assistant Coach, I have had the privilege of seeing this group of girls mature over the past five years under the nurturing leadership of Coach Finn Ramsland. While playing a fairly strong level of competition without trying to become an elite team, we have chosen relationships of friendship and reasonableness of commitment over some of the high-powered recruiting tactics and activity-packed schedules of some of the other teams. The results have been rewarding – both on the field, and especially off the field, as you see how the girls have bonded together.

We all stayed in a large beach house and enjoyed the warm weather – in welcome contrast to the frigid conditions endured a year ago. The girls as well as the adult chaperones had a blast. The tournament was sponsored by the Hampton Roads Girls Soccer Association — a first class event which lived up to its motto: The Good of the Game —

The Hampton Road Girls Soccer Association continually strives to develop our girls to achieve the highest level performance, competition, and soccer skills as possible. HRGSA also stresses “fairness of play”, proper team conduct, and good fellowship among its players. It is every team’s responsibility to abide by this concept while on and off the field of play.

The spirit among all the girls was great … but there are always a couple of isolated incidents where misguided adults have trouble keeping the proper perspective. Every youth tournament includes its share of poor refereeing … but that is no excuse for abusive language on the part of parents. It was refreshing to see one referee stop one of the other games, remind the parents that they were there to encourage the girls … not to criticize the calls on the field, and then dismiss from the sideline a loud-mouthed parent who had to try to get in one final caustic comment.

Our team ran into one coach that fit that prototype of “Win at all costs.” He had recruited a dynamite roster that was stacked with legal “guest” players … nothing outside of the rules there … just a difference of philosophy. But what I found objectionable was his intent to push the envelope on what I would consider to be fair play. He didn’t need any competitive advantage … his girls were clearly the class of the group … but he intentionally fielded a team with a number of duplicate numbers on their jerseys.

At first, I didn’t think this was any big deal … with guest players, he had to use existing uniforms. However, it was confusing to try to instruct our players which girl to mark when there were two #4s, two #9s, two #13s, etc. Obviously with his tournament experience, he must have known this was not within the rules … but when we requested he switch to the required unique numbers … he first dismissed it with the comment “How does that impact the play on the field?” When we would not relent, he lamely offered: “Well, do you have any tape I could use?” When we continued to press the issue with the ref so that he was forced to comply … what a surprise to see him pull out a roll of blue tape that matched his team’s jersey numbers – what a coincidence … who could have figured?

Needless to say, our girls reacted by stepping up their intensity and playing fantastic team defense to withstand the onslaught of their skillful ball handling and hang on for a very satisfying tie. It was interesting to find a large number of the girls from the other teams in our age group cheering us on … maybe the local teams knew more than we did about the situation.

What will our girls value years down the road? Much more than their won-lost record… it will be the relationships treasured and the lessons learned by giving their best within the context of the rules in the spirit of fair play to try to achieve their goals. Once again, it is fulfilling to affirm the ideals of our own Christian Athletic Association and to appreciate the privilege of representing our Lord in the competitive arena of sports.

The Christian Athletic Association is a sports program which reaches out to children and adults by sharing a love for God, building relationships within family and community and creating respect for authority, one’s self and others.