My youngest daughter learned a lot this weekend. No, we didn't make her spend the holiday weekend studying history, English and geography. We let her play hockey, hockey and more hockey. She played in her first ever hockey tournament on Friday and Saturday. Her team finished in sixth place out of seven teams with a 2-2 record. She had a hat trick and a couple of other goals. And she learned some important life lessons about fairness, losing and leadership.
The most important thing she learned this weekend, though, was that how you play the game matters more than the points on the scoreboard. She learned that when you walk off the ice, putting a W in the win column is nice, but being able to hold your head up and know that you played with integrity is even more important.
After a great game on Friday night where her team played well and won, they had to play a really tough team Saturday morning. While my daughter was playing with her regular house league team, the other team had been put together specifically for the tournament, with the goal of winning it. About midway through the first period, the other team started sending their best player out for double shifts. Neither of those things broke any rules, but double shifting in a house league tournament goes against the spirit of house league hockey, where it's all about letting the kids have an equal chance to play.
Our coaches had a choice: they could continue to play our kids evenly or they could put our best players on the ice more often. Our coaches switched up which kids played together, but they kept the playing time equal for all of our kids. We lost -- by a lot. The kids were disappointed, but it was a great opportunity for my youngest to learn that while others don't always play "fair," sticking with the high road is always better in the end.
Losing that game cost my daughter's team any chance for a place in the championship game. Yet every child on her team got to play. They played hard and they left their best effort on the ice -- and they did it within the spirit of the rules of the game.
Proverbs 22:1 tells us "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold." A tournament championship would have been nice, but it would have come at the cost of a "good name." My daughter's coaches provided a perfect example of playing with integrity for my daughter. While she was less than happy with the score of the game, she learned a lesson much more valuable than any trophy she can set on a shelf.
We need to make sure we're surrounding our kids with adults who show integrity. We can't expect them to learn to make the right choices if all the adults in their lives are cutting corners and looking out only for themselves.
It's important for our kids to see adults making choices that show integrity. And it's equally important that we talk about those moments with our kids. They can happen in the grocery store, in the car or even at the ice rink. As parents, we need to take notice of those moments and use them to teach our children that the right choices are always right, even when the immediate result isn't what we want.
And, remember, all the teaching in the world does nothing if we aren't living up to those standards ourselves. Our kids need to see us making the right choice even when it's hard. It's the only way they can learn what integrity means.