Somewhere along the way, sportsmanship seems to have gotten lost, while winning, succeeding or advancing have become the curse of sport. The lesson parents seem to be teaching today is that winning, not fun, is the goal.
Furthermore, the message seems to be win at any cost . . . even violence. While the pursuit of victory has always been an important part of sports, it is the pursuit of victory with honor and sportsmanship that is really what sports should be about.
How can we instill the values of sportsmanship? Here are a few simple suggestions:
- Show by your actions and words everyday that you really care about sportsmanship. Set a good example. Actions speak louder than words.
- Expect and demand that everyone involved follows all the rules, including fans and parents. If they don’t they should not be allowed to participate. Leagues and teams should communicate the importance of sportsmanship to all participants on a regular basis, not just the beginning of the season.
- Have team discussions about sportsmanship throughout the season. Use this as a time to relate sportsmanship – good and bad – as it is seen on TV or in person.
- Never tolerate violent behavior in practice or in competition….never.
- There should be clear and immediate penalties for unsportsmanlike actions, no matter what the surrounding circumstances are or how important a game is to a season. This applies to both athletes and parents.
What should coaches and parents do if youngsters have been exposed to violence?
- Let them know that it is normal to be upset after viewing violence.
- Hold sessions with entire teams and individuals to address the situation.
- Hold meetings with parents to discuss the event, how their youngsters may respond to it, and what they can do.
Coaches rely on parents to teach skills and parents rely on coaches to teach skills. Here again, the kids lose. So what can adults do to ultimately help their kids “win”?
- Model sportsmanship and appropriate ways of dealing with feelings of aggression.
- Allow kids to play as kids, where winning and losing a game does not matter (which can be utilized as a learning experience).
- Remember that the programs are for the benefit of the kids, not the adults.
- Parents should get out and spend lots of time helping youngsters develop higher and higher levels of skill. Higher skill levels lead to less frustration, a successful experience and more fun.
This article appeared in the September 2001 issue of From The Dugout and was reprinted courtesy of theNational High School Baseball Coaches Association.