Last week, I offered a letter from the bleacher seats. It was my way of sharing a little bit about autism and echolalia through an experience from the weekend prior while we watched our daughter and her teammates participate in the Fulton County 7th Grade Volleyball Tournament.
To recap, a nearby parent was displaying less than sportsmanlike behavior, using words and phrases inappropriate for the situation, degrading the players on both sides of the net. My letter was addressed to the Farmington mom sitting behind me. However, based on the responses I received online and in person, it obviously struck a chord across central Illinois and beyond.
I saw this as a relatable experience for most readers as this is not a Fulton County problem, but rather something that happens in gyms and ballparks across the country. It is unfortunate, but it is the reality of our times.
What I didn’t expect was the overwhelming response from readers. Of the dozens of responses, both written and verbal, only one was anything less than supportive, agreeable, or encouraging. I’d like to thank each and every one of you who shared your own stories of dealing with these types of situations and assure you that you are not alone. It happens, not just among Farmington parents, not just in Fulton County, but seriously, across the country. I now have examples of these events from as far away as California.
My intent was never to shame anyone, but rather to share our experiences. I can’t even begin to tell you though, how very much I appreciate the response from the Farmington community.
Wednesday afternoon, I got word of a statement released from John Asplund, Superintendent of Farmington Central School District #265 via their district Facebook page. Not a member of their district, I did not have access to this page until someone shared it directly with me later in the weekend.
Thank you, Mr. Asplund for your kind words and for your proactive approach to keeping the atmosphere positive.
We spent our Saturday in Farmington at the 7th grade volleyball regional tournament. Our girls won their first game against West Central that morning, resulting in a match up with Farmington that afternoon. Much to my surprise, a gentleman approached me after the A-Town / West Central game and asked if I could tell him which of our parents wrote “the letter.” Then it dawned on me that I was wearing an A-Town volleyball shirt and we were the only ones with small children in the stands.
I took a deep breath, looked to my husband for reassurance, and acknowledged it was me. This gentleman looked me straight in the eye and said, “Thank you. My daughter is one of ‘the same d*mn five’.”
What transpired over the next few minutes and into the next game was a conversation among parents who are frustrated with the actions and attitudes of a very minute minority and simply want the very best and encouraging atmosphere possible in which their children can play ball, develop their skills, and grow not only as athletes, but as people.
At the end, we shook hands, wished each other’s teams well in the match ahead and parted ways.
However, I noticed this gentleman took a seat near us, between my family and the group of Farmington fans prior to the start of the next game.
Thank you, Farmington Dad, for taking time to visit with me. I very much enjoyed our conversation and appreciated your gesture of true sportsmanship. You are the example of what I hope our children see when visiting other gyms.
Your daughter’s team remains unbeaten by the Tornadoes, but many lessons have been learned about, or perhaps reinforced by the majority of the people of central Illinois. We work hard. We play hard. We cheer hard. Sometimes we win. Sometimes we lose. But we always wish each other well. Best of luck, Farmers, in the regional championship against Havana!!
Still A Proud Tornado Mom