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Mar, 2017

Sportsmanship starts with parents

We have all been there, cringing while a parent shouts out derogatory statements about a coach, referee or child,
theirs or someone else’s. I’ve been at more than one game where the referee had to stop the clock and talk to or
eject a spectator. Fortunately, most people shy away from this type of behavior, and it is the abnormality rather than
the standard. We know that bad sportsmanship is contagious, and it is unquestionably harmful to a young athlete’s
attitude. Whether the children, the surrounding parents, the coaches or the referees have heard it, the disparaging
comments set the tone for the game, and sometimes, even the season.

Good sportsmanship is when teammates, opponents, coaches and officials all treat each other with respect.
Sportsmanship is also the conduct displayed by the people on the sidelines watching the game. Kids learn the
fundamentals of sportsmanship from the adults in their lives, principally their parents and their coaches. Good
sportsmanship must first be communicated by parents. If a child is pushed by a parent to win at all cost, odds are
that sportsmanship may get misplaced along the way. Kids who see adults acting in a sportsmanlike way
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.

When working with young athletes one of our jobs is to communicate and demonstrate good sportsmanship and
behavior. What we say and what we do is imitated by actions of the players on the field and on the bench. Showing
bad conduct and sportsmanship as a parent encourages young athletes to do the same. If we are not held to higher
behavior standards, then how can we keep them to a high standard?

Do not boo the coach, the players or the referees and umpires. Abusive language and critical comments should not
be accepted. A zealous parent who cannot help but cheer for their child should let it out in an encouraging way.
Congratulate the whole team, not just your child. While you are at it, if the other team made a great play, recognize
it. What better way to illustrate sportsmanship than to be aware of the athletic skill of all the players?

To be truthful, the vast majority of parents support their children with genuine demonstrations of sportsmanship.
Most parents bite their tongue when the referee makes a terrible call. Most parents grin and bear it when the coach
doesn't start their child for the big game. Most parents don't want to run the coach out of town on a rail after an awful
game or an appalling season. Most parents realize that their kids don't have to be stars to learn about hard work,
teamwork and responsibility, which is really what youth sports are all about.

Children learn by example, show them how to practice good sportsmanship by not always anticipating a win. Explain
that winning is not always a possibility, but it is always right to be a good sport. Proving a positive attitude, team
spirit and showing respect for others is just as significant as the outcome of the game.

Sometimes, parents just lose their minds once their children get on a sports field. Some are so invested in living
vicariously through their children, that every game appears much more significant than it really is. Other parents get
a Papa or Mama Bear mindset while watching their kids play. Fouls can occur during regular play of most games,
and officials can’t always see everything that occurs on a large field. When a kid gets shoved by an opposing team
member, some parents start screaming at the kid, the kid’s parents, the coach or the official.

It’s vital to remember it’s just a game. If your kid is falsely called out, or has a foul called on them, it’s not the end of
the world. Every now and then when an opposing player causes a foul on your kid, it’s purely by accident. It might
be due to the excitement of the game and not on purpose. Sometimes it IS deliberate, and that’s not OK. But there’s
an irony there if you respond to bad sportsmanship by screaming and swearing, then you are being a bad sport.

According to the National Alliance for Youth Sports, sideline behavior by adults is a top contributing reason for kids
dropping out of sports. Youth sports are intended to be fun, teach the importance of teamwork and good sportsmanship, and help children
develop healthy exercise habits and athletic skills.

We as parents, friends and spectators have to lead by example.
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