I Have a Dream
I have a dream that one day, I will go into a sports hall to watch a youth competition and see children try their best to win, without being the recipients of shouting, demeaning comments and foul language from the gallery.
I have a dream that one day, all parents will understand that they are not coaches, let alone referees, and that sport activity for children is not a professional competition, but a privileged space for learning many things that go beyond sport.
I have a dream that one day, once and for all, all the adults present in children and youth games and matches (parents, coaches and leaders), will understand that at this age, competition is a means to learning and not the end in itself.
It is with these thoughts in mind that, when I am challenged to design competitions for young people, I make sure that these competitions do not end with the traditional final game between the top two teams, but with a series of games in which the teams are mixed up, All Star Game style, and children who have previously been opponents get a chance to play together on the same team. Believe me, this always creates a great vibe and new relationships between parents and children.
This is the moment when several people always ask me: "Antonio, do you really believe that you can change the world?" My answer to this question is always steadfast and I tell them this fable: "There was a fire in the forest, and a little bird went to the nearest lake to fill its beak with water to help put out the fire. An elephant, who can spout hundreds of litres of water with its trunk, started laughing at the bird and asked him mockingly “what are you doing you fool?” The bird quickly responded: “You elephants are only a few. We birds are millions. If each and every one of us one does their part, we will certainly be able to put out the fire a lot faster"
I am no more than a little bird, but I feel that I am doing my part, and if each and every one of us does their part, we will surely have more suitable events for the children. What part do you play? Have you ever asked yourself that question?
That’s not all though. Another question I get asked all the time is: "Antonio, don’t you understand that sport is about high emotions?" “Of course I understand” comes my reply “but we should never mistake enthusiasm and support for our children with fanaticism, poor sportmanship, physical threats and incitement to violence”.
Throughout the various editions of the National Minibasket Festivals in Portugal, which I developed underpinned by these principles, things have been steadily getting better… Except the behaviour of some, fortunately very few, parents. So, yes, my dream may be “Utopia” but as long as my dream can change the behaviour of one single parent, I’m happy. And this was the case of the father of a mini-basketball player, who after talking to me about this topic, started to see things differently and to change his behaviour. He even took the referee’s course! The last I heard, he had been asked to be president of the Regional Referees Association. I rest my case. This dream is worth dreaming.
I’d like to end this blog inspired again by Martin Luther King. Paraphrasing one of his most celebrated quotes: "The greatest tragedy of this period is not the strident clamour of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people." This is the reason why I can’t remain silent.
António San Payo Araújo