The Hubcap Classic

All three of my sons have loved soccer all their lives.

In fact, their mother still insists they were doing corner kicks in the womb. After Deb birthed them, I taught them to play soccer. Well, actually, I changed a few diapers along the way.

As they got older, soccer began to play a pretty major role in our lives. A lot of life’s best lessons were learned between the corner flags. Like any other sport, soccer can be just a game or it can be the anvil on which character is shaped and formed. And some lessons are still getting hammered out to this day. In fact, I learned a lesson of my own at a soccer match just a few weeks ago.

To contextualize, you have to understand that in adulthood all three of the Cleveland boys have coached at the high school level and their enthusiasm for kicking things is still as strong as ever. While Josh, the youngest, is taking a break from coaching, the other two are, even as I write this, winding up a Spring season as head varsity girl’s coaches at their respective high schools. Nate is at Wisconsin Rapids and Matt is at Sun Prairie.

Deb and I recently attended the annual “Hubcap Classic” soccer tournament hosted in Wisconsin Rapids this year. Yep, you heard it right, I said “Hubcap Classic”. The winner of the tournament receives….not a typical trophy of polished bronze and mahogany base. No sirreeee, the winner of this shootin match gets a hubcap. Sometimes it’s an old Hudson, sometimes it’s a Cadillac, on a bad year it might be a Yugo. You never know.

It’s becoming a fine tradition.

You see, it all started a few years ago when Nate noticed the disappointment on the girl’s faces when they would win a tournament and basically get a handshake and an “atta-girl” as a gesture of congratulations from the host of one of these weekend events. In year’s past a trophy had been awarded but with budget cuts and so forth, most of the tournaments gave no promise of a trophy and the girls were solidly disappointed.

On one particular weekend, Nate was revving his girls up at half time and one of his players asked, “Coach, what do the winners of the tournament receive?”. Coach Cleveland, in a moment of brilliance and improvisation, said, with all the seriousness of a penalty kick, “a hubcap!”

Well, wouldn’t you know it, his girls went out there and won that game.

But in the end there was only handshakes and “atta-girls”. Disappointment accompanied the girls on their way home. Sweaty socks on a crowded bus can generate quite a stink….but getting no trophy….well that just reeks!

No trophy again…..and no hubcap! Nate knew he had to do something. Later that week at the annual sports banquet, he shared with the crowd how his girls had dug down and came up with something extra to win the recent tournament. To the delight of his team he would now present the perfect symbol for their hard won victory. A hubcap!

Well you would have thought the Lombardi trophy had arrived! Screams and giggles and cheers filled the hall and that night the coach called his brother Matt. “Hey, he says, whatsay we start an annual shootin match of our own and in the end the winner gets a hubcap?” Matt thinks a bit then says, “hey, why not?” So the tradition began.

The fans love it, the teams love it and needless to say, the junk yards kind of like the idea too.

Hats off to the two coach Clevelands and their “Hubcap Classic”. May the tradition continue and flourish way into overtime.

A postscript…..

Well, the old man here got to thinking about the whole idea of presenting hubcaps as trophies. It’s all about letting folks know their efforts are appreciated. It’s not so much the thing itself as it is the idea behind it.

Giving someone a token to remember that something special happened on a certain day is a good idea. If a hubcap reminds someone of a great team effort or a never-give-up attitude, then it sounds like something the world needs more of.

I seem to recall that God himself had His people pile up a bunch of rocks on the side of the Jordan River when they crossed. (Joshua 4:2-7) And for generations to come, when the great grandchildren of those people would ask about the pile of rocks, they would be told the story of how long ago something very special happened at that spot. Something involving courage, faithfulness and God’s blessings.

A rock, an old hubcap, ribbon around an oak tree. They all mean something if there’s something worth remembering.

And by the way, if you ever visit my office, ask me about the chrome lug-nut on my book shelf. There’s a story behind that. Something wonderful happened the day I received it. And I’d love to tell it to you.

It’s a classic all on its own.

About Gary Cleveland

An old chunk of coal waiting to become a diamond some day. I spend the bulk of my time focused on spiritual development. I teach, preach and stand by the hurting and wounded. I believe our heavenly Father offers us daily opportunities to discover who we are and what we can yet become. I serve as a bringer of good news in and around the city of Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
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