As the wife of an Academic Games coach for 13 years and mother of an up and coming AG player, I have had these games take over my life in many ways, including my house, my head and now, my heart. I am not a player myself, but greatly admire both current and past players. As of this year, I am no longer just a visitor, I am on a mission to tell the story of Academic Games through photography. This is where MY heart shines.
So here we are, April, 2013, in Charlotte, N.C., with over 800 middle and high school students, numerous coaches and tons of proud parent chaperones, settled into our two hotels for 4 ½ days. Today we are watching a playoff game of the national championships. While holding my Nikon, I begin recording a sudden death playoff in Elementary Division LinguiSHTIK. There are four teams, from four different areas.
When the shake is almost over, it begins to become apparent who is going to win in the match closest to me, even to me, the non-player. After a few attempts to clarify his opponent’s answer, the boy in the match finally concedes to defeat. This has got to be one of the most difficult times, when you know you just made the mistake that has cost you the game and possibly the championship. For many, frustration begins to seep out in a red face, but for others the tears begin to flow. For one, this boy, I can tell the tears are about to conquer his will to control his disappointment. As a mom, it is absolutely heartbreaking to see this happen to anyone’s “little boy or girl”, even if they are in middle school.
Once the game is over, the boy asks the winner, a girl, why his sentence did not work. After they have >handed in their scoresheet, with a teaching heart, she explained what his sentence was missing, then >very gently gave him some choices to help him to understand. I was so amazed by her kindness to teach an opponent, but that feeling intensified more-so with what I witnessed over the next few minutes.
Though I could not see his face, I could tell from his opponents’, as it changed to total empathy, that he could no longer hold back the tears. She (the winner), suddenly began telling him what a great job he had done and how proud he should be of how far he had gotten. She kept emphasizing this and as his own teammates saw what was happening, they came over to give him a guy-hug. They were quickly asked to sit down, as there were still a few other matches playing, but I found myself tearing up at the compassion that I had just witnessed.
As I photographed the players and their coaches during that long weekend, I will never forget this first behind-the-scenes experience that I had. This nerdy group of individuals (yes, they wear that title proudly), for many who are sometimes quiet and, sadly, even bullied in their school environment, showed what amazing hearts they truly have.
So as I return home from this year’s national tournament, I think when my home becomes invaded with boxes of games, piles of score sheets and loads of thinkers, I hope I will remember what this is really all about—the minds and hearts of those who play.