My memories of being a five-year-old consist mainly of frayed volleyball nets, floor polish on maple floors, referee shirts and whistles, and roughly scribbled rosters. My dad coached a team of young volleyball players in our ward in Taylorsville, Utah. I was his “assistant.”
My dad taught the team principles of hard work, team spirit, honesty, trust in self and in others, goal setting, perseverance, and sacrifice. There were prayers under the bleachers, 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 net was touched inadvertently, or a pass mishandled, my dad taught each boy that it was important to reveal his error with a raised hand. Later, that lesson would make a lasting impression, not only on the members of the team, but also on a five-year-old “assistant coach.”
The team had started out as a ragged group. But in May 1970, when the all-Church championships were held at the Deseret Gymnasium in Salt Lake City, the team from the Taylorsville First Ward was there to compete. (The last all-Church championships were held in 1972.) When it was time for the final match, the four years the team had spent playing together paid off. Just one more match against the Winder Third Ward stood in the way of their dream of winning the championship.
There was a spirited atmosphere at the championship match. Hundreds of people filled the bleachers to watch the competition. I took my place on the floor by the coach when the horn sounded to commence play. I don’t remember much of that match, but I do remember the end of the final game. The crowd cheered as the final point was scored by my dad’s team, and participants and spectators flooded the floor. A husky, formidable player on our team named Brent 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 could have easily been forgotten. But amidst the bedlam, Brent’s hand slowly rose into the air.
The teams were reassembled, the crowd took their seats, and the game continued. Shortly thereafter, the game ended, and my dad’s team had captured the championship they had been working at for four years. They could not only feel good about winning, but 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 saw it, Brent stood the tallest.