When the Parents are. . .well, you know! What Is Good Sportsmanship?

Good sportsmanship is when teammates, opponents, coaches, and officials treat each other with respect. Kids learn the basics of sportsmanship from the adults in their lives, especially their parents and their coaches. Kids who see adults behaving in a sportsmanlike way gradually come to understand that the real winners in sports are those who know how to persevere and to behave with dignity — whether they win or lose a game.  
Ok, so that is the definition of good sportsmanship and when you go to watch your son or daughter play a game, do these teams always embrace that definition? I would like to think so and being a parent I try really hard to teach my girls how to play the game safe, at their best and FAIR!  I'd rather see my girls give it their all and play FAIR instead of cheating to win a game. . .HANDS DOWN!
Yes, here comes the backdrop for this blog entry! This weekend my 10 year old daughter played a team that has been known to shove, push and elbow their opponents.  It has been so bad that they have injured several girls on our team including my daughter (broken toe).  This weekend was no exception.   My daughter's team made the finals and because my daughter is one of the biggest girls on the field, she gets called for a lot of fouls.  It's part of the game, right? Well, this weekend she was "yellow carded" for something that could have gotten a "warning" like all the other players. . .but even THAT was ok!  But I have to admit, it's another thing when you have an entire group of ADULTS from the oppossing team scream nasty things about your kid and CHEERING her off of the field.  Really?  Now what kind of sportsmanship is that?  As a parent, it is REALLY hard to watch and take in because she is 10 and you have a opposing coach berate her and encourages the parents to do the same.  
If you read the definition for "good sportsmanship" above, it does state that "Kids learn the basics of sportsmanship from the adults in their lives, especially their parents and their coaches." I am not saying that this happens on every field but when these competitive games get nasty starting with the coaches and then parents you have to wonder, what are we teaching our kids? Is it really OK to teach kids to injure another kid just to get ahead? Will it take a serious neck injury, back injury or hospitalization of a child just to get a point across? Oh and what about the sport itself? Are we respecting that?  I may be going to the extreme but their has to be a limit to what we teach our kids on and off the field.  
Recently a video of good sportsmanship went "CrAzY" viral over the internet because a high school runner,  Meghan Vogal decided to help her injured opponent across the finish line.  Good sportsmanship is so rare that when it does happen we are surprised and shocked! That tells you something.  I do understand that the world can not be perfect and that bad things happen to good people, but if we could just teach our younger athletes how to PLAY THE GAME and NOT PLAY THE PLAYER, everyone can go home feeling a little bit better about their PERFORMANCE and not how many people they hurt!
PARENTS:  Be Your Child's Role Model. Offer praise and encouraging words for all athletes, including your child's opponents. Never openly berate, tease, or demean any child athlete, coach, or referee while attending a sporting event. 

  • Do You Have A Hidden Agenda? Be honest with yourself about why you want your child to play organized sports. What do you want her to gain from the experience? 

  • You Set the Rules. It's ultimately your responsibility to teach your children good sportsmanship, both as a participant and as a spectator. 

  • Watching and Learning. Whether you're watching the Olympics on TV or attending a high-school sporting event, you can always find "teachable moments" regarding sportsmanship. 

  • Tips for Coaches: 
    Coaches nurture good sportsmanship. A coach must model good sportsmanship at every level and make it a core goal of his work with kids.
    I recommend that every youth sports coach engage his players in a detailed discussion of good sportsmanship as soon as he forms his team. A written contract, perhaps titled The Good Sportsmanship Code, should be given to every child and his parent to sign. The contract should spell out what the coach expects from each player in terms of good sportsmanship, including the following areas:
    • Cheating (no cheating)
    • Losing one's temper (how to behave in a tough situation)
    • Negative criticism of teammates, coaches, referees, and opposing players (not tolerable)
    • Blaming teammates for mistakes or a poor team performance (taking on responsibility)
    • "Trash talk" and taunting opponents (no "trash talking")
    • Showboating 
    • Arguing referees' calls and judgments (respecting calls and learning from mistakes)
    • The need to congratulate one's opponents after a game
    Coaching children is an honor and a privilege that carries with it a moral responsibility to contribute to the healthy character development of young players. Coaches who equate "trying your best" as the definition of success -- and who value, expect, and demand good sportsmanship from their players -- help shape the moral, ethical, and spiritual character of children.
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