Friday, November 13, 2009

Sometimes you get rained out

Lessons of the helicopter incident

There’s a big flap going around the county about the use of a helicopter to dry out the Goochland High School football field so an important game could be played on schedule last week.

Reportedly, the cost of the helicopter, about $1,600, was covered by donations from private sources.

Head football coach Bryan Gordon contended that drying the field made play safer for the athletes and helped to protect the field surface from damage caused by play in the mud and prevent costly replacement of sod.

Meanwhile, the school system is threatening to lay off teachers due to the expected budget shortfall caused by declining property assessments.

Okay, no tax dollars were used to pay for the helicopter so it was just a problem solving exercise for the football coach.

Expect all accounts of this incident in the “local” media to be carefully spun by the school system’s public information person.

Perhaps a more important question to ask is what larger lessons did the incident teach our kids?

Before we get to all that, Gordon, his coaches, staff and the team deserve praise for their hard work that resulted in an undefeated season. This is especially noteworthy because Goochland moved up to face supposedly more difficult opponents.

We hope they repeat their win at the state level this year. Go Bulldogs!

But, after the cheering stops and they players move on to the next stage of their lives, what lessons will they take with them from this episode?

How will they handle situations when, after working as hard as they can toward a particular goal, through no fault of their own, there is no happy ending? Adults instinctively want to protect the young and insulate them from the nasty bits in life. This can be carried too far.

There are lots of rainouts in life. Stuff happens that is no one’s fault, but has consequences.

Learning how to deal with failure and disappointment is part of growing up. It hurts, but it builds the character skills that get us through the tough times that are part of life.

Like it or not, at some point there will be no one there to smooth the way for the football team members, to metaphorically dry off the field so they can go on to glory. Will the helicopter incident give members of the football team a misplaced sense of entitlement throughout their lives?

If there is so much fiscal enthusiasm for Goochland High School football, perhaps the entire program should be funded by private donations.

Then, there are the environmental concerns.

Our school curriculum undoubtedly devotes time and energy to blathering about global warming and the importance of reducing our carbon footprint.

A helicopter hovering over the football field long enough to dry it out left a huge carbon footprint as it burned through many pounds of aviation fuel.

People who under usual circumstances would raise concerns about polluted the air, distressed migratory birds and a deleterious effect on ground water recharge by changing runoff patterns were silent.

The incident is a case of good intentions run amok. Of course we want our team to win, but it’s about more than winning football games.

Creating an environment for children that is so protective that it eliminates all possibility of failure or disappointment will only lead to bigger failures later on.

The whole thing was a massive lapse of judgment. Regardless of who paid for the helicopter, authorizing that kind of an expenditure in these economic times is yet another example of the arrogance of the school system.

Would the world have ended had the game in question been postponed? Where was the school board in all of this? We want our children to receive an excellent education. We also want our tax dollars to be spent wisely.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I skimmed through this posting, and saw a few mistakes. Coach Fowler is the Football Coach. Bryan Gordon is the Asst. Principal/Athletic Director. The football team did not go undefeated, they lost a District game to Charlottesville (I believe). I for one can understand why High Schools do not want to destroy their fields, just to prove toughness to the old timers, to play in the rain. But the game probably should have been rescheduled.