Friday, September 28, 2007

Volleyball Game #4 -- Noblesville (away)

Tuesday evening was the scene of a promising-looking match between our girls and the Noblesville Lady Knights, but things took a turn for the worse, I'm afraid.

Our JV Angels took the floor after a particularly impressive warm up session. I sat and read The Yearling and kept an eye out for stray balls moving with increasing velocity toward my head, but couldn't help but notice that the setting, bumping and spiking was all looking very, very nice.

And it was! The first game of the best-out-of-three match was a really good one. Our girls, inexperienced as they are (we do have five twelve-year-olds, after all), played brilliantly, they truly did. They kept the Lady Knights scrambling ingloriously. We won the first game with ease. But then the second game came along, as inexorably as February follows January, no matter how sick you are of snow and how much you wish you'd been born in Hawaii. You might take from this that the second game did not go well.

Nor, for that matter, did the fifteen point tiebreaker.

I'm not sure what happened to our junior varsity girls, whether they psyched themselves out by winning the first game with such ease, or whether they got complacent and felt that they really didn't need to expend much effort since the Lady Knights weren't that good, but the Lady Knights came back and administered a couple of smackdowns that left the Angels reeling.

Frankly, our girls played like poo. They just did. I'd like to be one of those "they didn't win, but it was still a great game" type of people right now, but I can't. When a serve is sailing over the net and it looks easily returnable but six girls on the court all just stand there and watch it land right smack in the middle of the court, I can't say it was a good game. Or when, after being told over and over again to talk to each other, calling out "Mine!" when a ball is coming toward them, they all stand silently...I can't.

There's another problem happening with volleyball that is straining things between the JV coach and my husband and I. Aisling, who went to volleyball camp way back in June and also attended all August practices, is being left to sit on the bench, while our other young members of the team, some of whom are no better than she is (and a couple of them not as good) are getting playing time.

She did not play one single second of this match with Noblesville.

My husband and I are both extremely opposed to this type of coaching, not just for Aisling, but for anyone left sitting on a bench. I know that bench-sitting happens - it is such a refined practice that it has been given the more catchy title of "red shirting" in college sports -- but this volleyball team isn't, in our opinion, supposed to be about leaving girls to sit while their morale droops and their skills suffer from lack of the challenge of a game.

It would be hard to take if this were a college or even a high school team where kids eagerly try out just for a hope of bench sitting. But our volleyball team is one where we practically have to stand in the mall and beg girls to join. In circumstances like those, everyone should get a chance to play.

Especially someone who came and worked all summer.

Especially someone whose parents are paying through the nose to give their daughter this opportunity to sit on the bench match after match after match.

Especially when other girls, who didn't attend the camp and perhaps only joined the team within the past few weeks are getting playing time.

Especially when the coach, who repeatedly tells the team, "This is not about winning. This is about playing volleyball and developing your skill" pulled a tearful Aisling aside after the Noblesville match and said, "Look, Aisling, it's nothing personal that I didn't play you. It's just that I wanted to go with the same lineup I used for the Columbus match and see if we could pull off a win with those girls."

Which seems a little hypocritical to me. Or maybe he was just thinking of any excuse that came to mind when he saw the expression on the faces of her parents. I don't know.

Last year, a girl who had just learned to play volleyball spent a lot of time on the bench. She and Meelyn became friends because it was the first year for both of them. There were many times when I was indignant on her behalf. I thought the coach was doing her a great disservice by allowing her to sit, but I wasn't her mother and there was nothing I could do. I did politely ask the coach why Meelyn only played about two minutes of one game in an entire day's worth of tournament matches that we traveled all the way to Ft. Wayne to attend. That brief appearance on the court was not worth the money it took to drive up there with gas at $3.60 per gallon, and it wasn't worth the nine hours we spent there, either.

He was very polite in return, but personally, I thought his response, which was, "Well, everyone doesn't get to play in every single game," was just as stupid when I heard it last year as it is hearing it this year.

Why not? On a Christian homeschool volleyball team, why not? On a Christian homeschool volleyball team where parents like us, with two girls on the roster, are paying several hundred dollars in fees to the team (not including all the travel, uniforms, equipment, et cetera), why not?

I am really ticked off about this.

My husband and I are not the kind of people who will ever get in this coach's face and make idiots of ourselves about this. We aren't like that. It's one thing to politely say, "I was wondering if you could explain your motivation in not allowing my daughter any playing time?" but it's another thing to do what a lot of parents do and scream abuse at him until his hair blows backward.

So last Tuesday, my husband spoke his piece. He spoke it politely and the coach received it politely. I just stayed away. I was so angry, I was almost incandescent and sometimes it's just better to remove yourself to the van while your husband is talking with the coach because that way, you can slouch down and mutter the most ferociously insulting epithets under your breath and no one is the wiser except the Lord your God and He knows that I used no profanity in my whispered diatribe.

Tonight we play a home game at 6:30. I guess we'll see how things go from there. If there's no change, my husband and I have already told Aisling that this may well be something we'll have to offer up, to unite this suffering with the suffering of Christ, realizing that we haven't been called to shed blood. We've told her that even if nothing changes, we won't let one bad coach ruin for her a sport that she really loves.

And next year, Daddy will likely be coaching in his place since the current coach will be moving on. And he will make sure that this kind of thing doesn't happen to her or to any other girl as long as he holds that position.

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