Buzz Williams, a basketball coach at Virginia Tech, was tired of watching players disrespect their country. Williams decided to teach his team a lesson they would not soon forget after growing frustrated over their behavior during the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
You have probably seen it yourself during sporting events—athletes of all ages looking for ways to pass the time during the national anthem. Teammates engage in tapping games, sway to the music, look around to size up their opponents, and pay very little attention to the tradition they are taking part in. Coach Williams decided he would teach his team to respect their country in a powerful way.
“I wanted the players to understand how fortunate they were to be able to play this great game, to earn a scholarship, and to have people pay money to watch them play. Everything comes at a cost and each and every one of us is fortunate that someone else, in some way, is sacrificing something so we can go about our everyday lives.”
Buzz Williams started a Veteran’s Day tradition of bringing military members to practice and lining up his players to look the group of veterans in the eye. This gesture showed the college athletes how much they have to be thankful for and how greatly our veterans have earned their respect.
See next page for some ways you can teach your kids to be patriots.
As parents, we can instill this same lesson in our children before they reach college. We have opportunities in everyday settings to train our children to respect our country and the thousands of men and women who have given their lives for our freedom.
1. Be respectful during the national anthem.
This is not a time for secret games, dancing, or daydreaming. When listening to (and hopefully singing along with) our country’s anthem, Americans should give consideration to the words and their meaning. The powerful images of warfare, the hope of our nation’s flag still standing, and the victory won for the ideals and principles of our country are powerful. Ignoring the words is a gross oversight. In high school I remember a teacher lecturing my class for not standing during our school fight song. The pride we had in our school demanded our respect for the playing of our unique refrain. America’s national anthem is farther reaching than any school fight song. The words matter to every American. Teaching our children the significance of this beautiful hymn will impact their view of our country and the soldiers who fought to defend our freedoms.
2. Thank veterans and members of military—and their families—when you see them.
During my pregnancy, I was connected with a friend whose husband was on active duty overseas. Like me, she was expecting her first son, but she was walking through her pregnancy with her husband on another continent. While she knew all along that her husband might not make it home in time to witness the birth of their first child, I still struggle to fathom the emotions she faced when labor began and it was confirmed that her husband would not be her labor coach and would not meet their firstborn in the delivery room.
Our military members and their families sacrifice more than civilian families usually understand. When we see a veteran or an active duty military member, my family goes out of our way to say “thank you for your service.” Our son will grow up with a radar for these American heroes and a lifetime of showing them gratitude for the sacrifices they willingly made for our country.
3. Respect our flag.
I had the privilege of spending three of summers as a camp counselor. Part of the staff training included a thorough explanation of the flag code for our nation. We learned how to fold the flag and that you hoist the flag up the pole briskly but lower it in a slower, more ceremonial fashion. We learned that when it rained, the flag came down and that it was never to remain raised overnight without a light on it. While patriotism was not the ultimate goal of the Christian camp that employed me, it was definitely not an oversight. Learning about our flag’s significance and the reverence due it added to my personal sense of love for my country. A few years later my dad was given the flag from my veteran grandfather’s funeral. That very flag is displayed in my parents’ home. Knowing that my own family member was part of our nation’s determination to defend the values of our founding fathers gives me even more respect for our country’s banner.
My hope is that ten years from now a coach will not need to bring in veterans for a stare-down to teach collegiate athletes respect for their country. Commendation is due Coach Buzz Williams for the creative and powerful teaching opportunity he created, but I hope that our kids will never need this reality check. Despite our politics and the fears we may have for the future of our nation, unless we train our children to love and respect their country, there will be no one left to defend her. Training our children to be good patriots today will keep our country thriving tomorrow.