Many of my memories of being a five-year-old consist of volleyball nets, floor polish on gym floors, referee whistles, and roughly scribbled rosters. My dad coached a team of young volleyball players in our ward. I was his “assistant.”
My dad taught the players principles of hard work, team spirit, honesty, trust in self and in others, goal setting, perseverance, and sacrifice. There were prayers before games, 5:00 A.M. practices on Saturdays, and ice cream socials at our house.
One of the most important lessons I learned from my dad and his players was that of honesty. When a player touched the net inadvertently or mishandled a pass, my dad taught that it was important for the player to reveal his error with a raised hand. That lesson would make a lasting impression, not only on the members of the team, but also on a five-year-old “assistant coach.”
Our team had struggled in the beginning. But when the championships were held, we were there to compete. When it was time for the final match, the four years the team had spent playing together paid off. Just one match stood in the way of our winning the championship.
There was a spirited atmosphere at the championship match. Crowds of people came to watch the competition. I took my place next to Dad when the horn sounded to begin play.
I don’t remember much of that match, but I do remember the end of the final game. The crowd cheered as my dad’s team scored the final point. Participants and spectators flooded the floor. Brent, a big, formidable player on our team, had made the final point with a decisive spike. So powerful was his contact with the ball that even the experienced referee didn’t notice that Brent’s finger had brushed the net. It was a penalty that easily could have been forgotten. But amid the excitement, Brent slowly raised his arm into the air.
The teams reassembled, the crowd took their seats, and the game continued. Shortly thereafter, the game ended, and my dad’s team captured the championship they had been working at for four years. They could feel good not only about winning, but also about doing it honestly.
Many years have passed since my days of chasing volleyballs for my father and his players. But the memory of a coach teaching the value of honesty to his team still remains firmly planted in my memory. From my low vantage point on the floor that day, most people seemed tall. But the way I—and everyone else—saw it, Brent stood the tallest.