Monday, September 6, 2010

Reader Question: Sportsmanship

This question came in recently and I think it is an important issue to address because school is about to start and athletic competitions will begin.

Dear Etiquette Guy,

When am I obligated to represent a group I belong to? My son's little league gave us money to help pay for travel costs to an out of town tournament. We stayed in a hotel for several nights. One night, outside the hotel, I got into a fist fight with the coach. People seem to think we were both acting as representative of our league. I was acting as a parent and nothing more. Is it fair for them to label me as a rep. for my sons team. This did not happen at the baseball field.

Confused Parent

Dear Confused,

No matter where you go and under whatever circumstance, you will always be representative of your many activities and business associations. Parents and coaches who are involved in fist fights have no business being involved in children's sporting activities, as you are both uncivil and ill equipped to be giving advice to anyone, especially children. Imagine the messages you are sending to your child. Both you and the coach should grow up and learn to settle your differences in a civilized manner with out the use of physical violence to express your differences. You ought to enjoy your son's team participation without turning a disagreement into a bad life lesson. Parents set examples through their actions and children mimic these behaviors as acceptable. You should both be ashamed of yourselves and consider yourself lucky to be labelled anything other than foolish.

Another reader chimed in with:

"I agree with Etiquette Guy. People will consider you a representative on this one. Leagues don't give parents money for travel costs just because a parent wants to go. A parent chosen to accompany the team does represent that team. They are going for a reason. Otherwise, the league would have to give all of the parents money to go too. Since you were given the responsibility of accompanying the team, you are therefore a representative, and that is for 24 hours of every day day until you and the team return home. It doesn't matter where you got into the fist fight. The fact is that you DID get into a fist fight. You and the coach should do everyone a big favor. Quit the league and spend that time at anger management classes instead. It will do you both a world of good."

And another stated:

"I agree 100 percent with your response Jay! When my sons were younger, they both left soccer due to over the top parents, yelling at referees, yelling at children who weren't there own, and confusing their play. Parents put their children in sports (or should) to get exercise, learn teamwork, and to see if they might have an affinity for a particular sport. NOT to watch parents act like imbeciles!"

Judging from the amount of input on this matter, it is of paramount importance to many people. Not only are children pushed by parents for completely wrong reasons, such as their own ego issues, lack of self esteem and incivility; but coaches are challenged by parents who think they know better how to coach a team. Coaches are also guilty of poor judgment from time to timebecause they do not have the best interests of the children in mind.

One of the most important places we learn life's lessons and civil and respectful behavior is on the athletic field. Here we are taught sportsmanship, the rewards of fair play, and how to both win and lose with grace. If this opportunity is fouled up because adults don't know how to behave appropriately themselves, how do they expect children to learn good social behavior?

It is on the athletic field where we are instilled with the behaviors and values which we carry forward into all of the other arenas of our lives. Ask any sports star how they became top athletes and they will tell you that it was through the positive influences from family and from coaches. No athlete achieved anything positive by witnessing juvenile incivility which is demonstrated with reckless abandon in epidemic proportions in the peewee and junior leagues of athletics.

Extra curricular activities are important venues in which children grow. They will succeed most readily with a strong support system in place. The very nature of athletics and life in general is that there are winners and losers and we all play both roles from time to time throughout our lives. It would be much easier if we accept these as truths and show compassion for one another and for ourselves. There are so many parents and coaches who do the right thing. They have a great time and so do their children and students. Those who act with disrespect and who act inappropriately need to be sidelined. Tomorrow's leaders yearn for and need mentors. They will grow into great people with good nurturing.