Participation in group sports has a wide range of benefits for kids, from teaching them valuable teamwork skills to encouraging physical fitness and active play. However, organized sports can also bring out the worst in kids if they’re not taught the importance of good sportsmanship and why they should always work to be good sports. Fostering a sense of good sportsmanship starts at home, and isn’t the sole responsibility of coaches. These tips can help you create an environment in which sportsmanship reigns supreme and avoid potential problems with kids’ behavior later.
As with many important behavioral lessons, helping kids understand and exhibit good sportsmanship is easier when you start early. Help little ones understand why they shouldn’t become angry or upset when they lose a game, and start talking about the importance of being a good sport long before kids start participating in team sports. The younger your child is when she starts learning these lessons, the easier it will be for her to retain them and behave accordingly.
Model Good Sportsmanship
It’s not easy to teach your child to be a good sport when he watches you berate officials, chastise his coach or complain bitterly about a loss. Your kids learn more about how to interact with and react to the world by observing your actions than anything else, so you must make an effort to model the qualities of good sportsmanship at all times. Even if you’re seething over what you perceive to be a bad call, don’t let on to your child that you’re angry. Witnessing your tirades after hearing a long speech on the virtues of sportsmanship not only sends a conflicting message to your child, but also calls your teachings into question when they don’t match up to your actions.
Emphasize Enjoyment and Effort Over Winning
If your kids learn that winning at all costs is the most important aspect of participating in team sports or playing a game from listening to you, they start to focus solely on winning and not on playing the game for enjoyment. When they believe that the only important thing is to win, they’re more likely to behave in unsportsmanlike ways or even to cheat in order to bring home a victory. Talk about how much fun your child has playing soccer after a game, not all the ways in which she could have won.
Discourage Gloating After a Win
Rubbing a victory in an opponent’s face is just as unsportsmanlike as throwing a temper tantrum after a loss. You should never encourage your child to gloat after a win, especially in front of the team she’s just beaten. Talk about accepting both defeat and a victory with grace, and look for talking points about the rudeness of gloating to drive your point home.
Understand That Heckling is Bullying
Too many sports parents believe that heckling is part of playing a game, encouraging that behavior in their children and perpetuating a cycle of bullying, both on and off the field. Help your child to understand that there is no difference between trash-talking and bullying, and make sure she understands that you won’t tolerate either. Heckling another team, either during the game or after, is a shining example of bad sportsmanship and bad behavior.
Encourage, Don’t Criticize
At the end of a game or after practice, it’s easy to point out your child’s mistakes and tell him what he could have done differently. While you may feel that you’re helping your child build his skills on the field, what you’re really doing is reinforcing the idea that winning is the most important part of playing a sport and that you value results over effort. Encourage your child to look for ways he can improve on his own, make a point of providing reassurance and avoid the urge to criticize even a bad performance.
Our thank you goes out to Kenny Myers and Jessica Clark for this thoughtful blog.
Rule Number One
Displaying good behavior at sport events, games and practice are all the right places for a Sports Techie student athlete, coach, and parent, official and television viewer to shine. Why? Because of rule number one which is; because you live in 2013, most likely all athletic endeavors are now being recorded on someone’s smartphone, tablet, camera or video recorder and satellite, all day, every day.
Parent Role Models
I can speak about the impact my parents have had on me and hope that my son’s Mom and I can pass on this type of respect for oneself and for others. Last time I checked, no one is perfect. I have been a bad sport plenty of times over the years. Don’t get me wrong, they are far and few between but when you are a lifetime athlete by the time you get to 47-years old, they add up just like for many of you.
I stuck my lax stick between the legs of one of my best friend’s legs during a heated Western Washington University vs. University of Washington collegiate playoff lacrosse game in order to trip him up. I learned this from other players and knew the ref would not be looking. It worked but not inside of me. At the time I knew it was wrong and today, I truly realize how bad a decision it was. Sorry, Andy. Remember rule one, Sports Techie, this play would most likely be recorded from here on forth so repercussions are sure to occur in some fashion.
My favorite example is one where I was not even there. My Dad took a 15-year old select team of basketball players to play in Washington D.C. for a prestigious hoops tournament. Select teams were just becoming a trend at this time and for many of these kids it was their first trip to the nation’s capital. One of the player’s started talking loudly on the bus about the homeless and may have made a racial comment that my Father heard.
To know my Danny is to love him. He is a 70-year young lifetime athlete who is Polish and a liberal raised in Detroit. Pops is a proud Michigan State Spartan who was the youngest inductee into the Peace Corp when he entered where he eventually met and married a super athlete and lovely person, our Ecuadorian Mother, Angie. He has worked for Spanish radio and the farmworkers which led to Caser Chavez spending the night at our house as kids. Fifty years ago, he was at the “I Have a Dream” Martin Luther King speech and March on Washington. In other words, he does not tolerate this type of bad sportsmanship behavior.
Coach Roble had the bus driver pull over and my Dad told the team if he heard any more talk like this they were all going home back to Seattle and the eastside. Well, you know how this turned out, the kids piped down and learned a valuable lesson that I hear about from time-to-time whenever I see one of those guys around town or on a social network.
About the referees, officials and umpires, it is almost a thankless position and most are volunteers. Those that are paid usually have more invested into the skill sets with training, certifications and experience levels. Having said that, remember the first point, they are mostly volunteers which in itself is a double edged sword.
On the one side, because they volunteer, the quality of officials can be a huge issue to the point where they become the antagonist. By smarting off and not controlling a game, or the players, coaches and fans, they can deteriorate the quality of the game to the point where unsportsmanlike conduct rears its ugly head. Rule one says to record this type of behavior so you can send it in to league executives if need be.
The other side is because they are not paid, you need to give them a break. Bad calls will be made. Now if refs get paid, they need to step their third team game up and lead the way as a shining example of sportsmanship like your training has taught you. The real National Football League refs now earn over $100,000 a year after last year’s work stoppage got them a large bump in pay, therefore they have high expectations by their employers when it comes to policing sportsmanship.
Instant replay took a long-time to become a world sport norm however it will now be used by FIFA in the World Cup 2014 (its already in place for the British Premier League) and by MLB in 2014, in order to help get the calls right with the assistance of video and its high-definition, multiple camera angles that pan, zoom and tilt, with super slo-mo playback and even tracking technology.
Breaking news this week is that Century Link Stadium will have undercover police officers roaming around the Seahawks games because of bad sportsmanship incidents that border on criminality such as happened last season when two off duty Bellevue cops harassed on duty officers. Remember rule one, it’s probably being recorded. These bad fans and others like them can ruin a game and even a season if allowed to antagonize and bully others. Glad to see the Seahawks are a leader with this new self-policing trend.
The culture of bad sportsmanship used to regulate itself on the field. New York Yankees troubled star Alex Rodriguez was intentionally beaned by a Boston Red Sox pitcher most likely because of the Biogenesis situation. The resulting suspension for the pitcher after further review was a good message sent by Major League Baseball that players need to respect the game and each other at all times, and also recognize that video is always on and recording so they best be aware, there will be consequences for bad behavior.
The beauty of sports is that the bad seeds are far and few between unless this mentality seeps its way into an organizational, team, fan and family culture. The Oakland Raider fans have earned this kind of label over time. Racist soccer fans in Europe is another example of how terrible sportsmanship can affect games with even violence. Finally, the killing of 74 football fans in Egypt in 2012 is perhaps the worst example I can think of that led to Egyptian courts sentencing 21 people to death because of disturbing video evidence. Let’s all pray that the Sochi 2014 winter Olympics do not go the way of the worst sportsmanship imaginable, terrorism.
On a positive note, the percentage of players who play fair and hard vs. those that fudge and intimidate is about 85-15 percent, imo. Having said that, I believe that number is at an all-time high with it creeping up over the next few years because of more and more video and digital evidence such as e-mails, social media postings and text messages, being turned in as a new social norm. Advanced sports technology can be a good thing for sports and for correcting bad sportsmanship.
With NFL and College football season here , I hope everyone behaves this evening at the University of Washington vs. Boise State game tonight in the new $280 million dollar Husky stadium renovation you can see here in a picture gallery by ESPN: http://espn.go.com/college-football/photos/gallery/_/id/9612641/image/1/2013-husky-stadium-tour
The Sports Techie Pledge
There is no better place to start learning than as a baby. As a result of this blog, here is the Sports Techie call to action. I pledge to never yell at an official on TV or the Internet ever again, whether someone else is watching with me or not. This way, young 13-week Kellan will not learn this type of behavior from the crib onward towards his march to being a player, coach, fan and parent himself should he choose that life path. Jessica, join my pledge as we watch your beloved fifth ranked Georgia Bulldogs take on the eighth ranked Clemson Tigers today in a big NCAA matchup broadcasting on ABC.
Sports Techie, Let me know with a blog comment or via any of our social media network links below, if you will join our pledge to never yell at an official on a TV or second screen again. Stay positive, remember rule one and be a shining Sports Techie community example.
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