It’s that time of year again. Most youth athletes we know usually get a short break right about now, doesn’t matter what sport they play. As we roll into August, though, it’s time to start conditioning, practicing and even playing. Football, of course, is well underway, as any Texas resident knows. For our youngest son, it’s club season for soccer and his first pre-season tournament is next weekend. As we go back to the practicing the sport, it’s time to also practice what amounts to good manners.
Earlier this year, a guy named Rick Coates wrote a great piece on putting the sportsmanship back in sports, saying parents and coaches were exhibiting ‘adult conduct disorder’. His plea about sportsmanship sounds like something your mother would say, doesn’t it? “Be a good sport, honey.” Maybe our kids need to hold up a mirror for us so we can look ourselves in the eye while taking good conduct oaths (each league has them).
Normally I would try for a little less preachiness but I thought we all needed a dose of our own medicine before the fun begins again. Most of you are probably going to nod along with most of what I have to say. Before you do, take a moment to think about your behavior. I’m not saying you’re the problem, I’m saying we’re the problem. Below are first hand examples of mine and each is because a parent lost their cool.
We are the ones who are screaming at the referees. A CYO basketball coach doesn’t like the call a referee made and yells, “what are we paying you for?” The ref decides the coach doesn’t need to be present for the rest of the tournament.
We are the ones yelling at the kids. Players ask their coach to not make them play on the parents’ side of the field. Why? Because the kids don’t like being yelled at by the parents throughout the game.
We are the ones threatening the coaches. A parent calls up the coach late at night and curses and threatens because they didn’t think their child had enough playing time in that evening’s game. This, over an 8 year old’s Little League game, first one of the season.
We are the ones attacking other parents. One parent gets frustrated and takes a swing at a parent from the other team after the two of them exchanged insults throughout the game. Both are banned from the remaining games in the season and reflecting badly on both teams and their clubs.
We are the ones ruining the game for our kids. Is it any wonder 70% of kids quit organized sports by the time they turn 15? So while your kid is conditioning and practicing their athletic skills, let’s practice our manners. In doing so, we’ll show respect for the game and respect for each other. Isn’t that a great thing to teach our kids?
What’s the point of youth sports? I believe that we need to reflect on this every time our children take the field, court or starting block. Listening to parents at various sporting events, I’d have to say that they think winning is number 1. After all, didn’t Vince Lombardi say, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing“? This might work for some activities, but does it really apply to youth sports?
Everyone loves a winner but most games end with a winner and a loser so does that mean that it’s a wasted effort for the losers? I sure hope not. What kind of life would it be if all we ever did was win? Aside from being unrealistic, we wouldn’t learn many lessons if we always won. Some might argue that always winning would dilute the powerful feeling of joy we get from triumph.
So, if not for the sake of winning, what’s the point of youth sports? The answer is probably different for everyone, one activity can fill many roles in our children’s lives. Unfortunately, many people treat youth sports as if only one thing matters. They scream at their children and others’. They get angry at the officials for a bad call. They complain to the coach that their child isn’t being given enough playing time. Sometimes, they have a point. Many times, they don’t. My point for today is that their behavior detracts from the value of the activity dishonors the game. Once your temper become the spectacle, the game, your team and your child suffer.
(For the video, go to YouTube: Respect)
When I think of sport, particularly amateur sports, I think of positive things, like the joy of playing. We have moved our family a lot and we learned that youth sports were a great way for our kids to make friends. Even more, volunteering helped my husband and I meet people. You have something in common, kids and sports, and everyone appreciates a volunteer. It’s not hard to see how sports unite us, is it.
However, we have also seen enough ugly incidents, mostly minor, a few serious, that showed us the worst in people. Whether it’s parents yelling at the refs, coaches yelling at their players (and even the other team’s players) or kids cursing each other, it feels as if we allow ourselves to ignore common civility – courtesy seems too much to ask of people. What is it that makes us be so hateful toward each other? Assuming you agree that it’s time we made a difference in this area, I hope you’ll follow this blog. I want to raise awareness of this issue and offer ideas on how you and I might unite our communities through sport.