Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Teaching Kids Sportsmanship When Parents Fail To Lead By Example

Kids learn sportsmanship through parents and coaches. And this past weekend, during and after an all day fast pitch tournament, I witnessed many parents and coaches failing their children.

There was an incident where a fast pitch coach was yelling at a parent. The umpire had call time out as the coach yelled and used gestures that expressed her anger. It was embarrassing. The parent and coach should have been asked to leave. Then there was another incident where several parents accused a larger sized nine year old girl of knocking one of their smaller sized eleven year old players to the ground on purpose. Emotions were high and some tears flowed, when the umpire called her safe. And she was safe. What the parents failed to recognize was the age of the child, her skill level, and the size of both girls. The girl who knocked the catcher over was twice her size. And bitterness continued onto the field. As the kids lined up to shake hands, the losing team slapped the winning teams hands really hard. It was heartbreaking that they didn't congratulate them and wish them well in the next game. 

Kids need to be taught that one team is going to win and another will lose. There will be bad calls and mistakes made. That's part of the game. And coaches and parents need to lead the kids by example.

Below are my suggestions to sideline parents and coaches on how to teach kids about sportsmanship. It starts with their behavior!
  • Put yourself in the umpire and coaches shoes. It's not an easy job, especially dealing with sideline parents who many think they can do better.
  • Umpires and referee's will make bad calls. They are human. And sometimes a bad call may cost you the game. Let it go. Getting angry isn't going to change their call and make your child feel any better.
  • Most coaches are volunteers. They aren't getting paid and some are learning the game as they coach. I've been a coach many times and it's not easy. Especially dealing with parents.
  • After the game, put your game face smile on, pat your child's back and tell them they did a great job. Parents are a lot harder on their kids and sometimes don't have a perfect perspective of how they really played. I'm guilty of it. I expect a lot more from my kids, then other kids. Take a deep breath and think about your child's feelings. Kids want to please their coaches and parents. They aren't on the field trying to miss a ball or strike out. Remember that during and after the game.
  • Coaches need to help calm the parents down.
  • Coaches should communicate to the parents at the beginning of the season the code of conduct and what they expect.
  • Acknowledge good plays on both sides of the field.
  • Cheer your team and make sure your kids are being good sports in the dug out.
  • Shake the other teams hands after every win and loss with a smile.
  • Bullying, no matter what, is not acceptable and action should be taken if a parent (and coach) bully's an umpire, coach or child.
Enjoy sharing in your child's love of sports. And help them learn sportsmanship by being a good role model yourself.

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