It's no secret that sportsmanship is in decline. Sportsmanship is arguably one of the biggest takeaways from youth sports. This is an aspect of the game that can translate into so many other areas of kid's lives and one they can easily carry into the adult years as they cope with different relationships, and in business. It's a sad statistic that has only gotten worse in recent years as society changes, and focus is placed more on abilities and winning, than on character.
Sportsmanship by definition, is the character, practice, and skill of a sportsman. It's to have sportsmanlike conduct, fairness, courtesy, and being a "cheerful loser". While we can all admit to faltering on one point or another, the consistency is which this is happening throughout youth sports these days is making the idea of sportsmanship, a thing of the past.
What is causing the downturn, and what can we do to make sure our kids don't lose it?
I asked several sports parents on social media what they thought was the culprit. Overwhelmingly, they blamed themselves. Well, parents in general.
Danette Myers, a baseball mom said, "I had a mom complaining that the umpire called her kid out at home and wanted to know how could he do that to a 6 year old! The parents are causing the decline in sportsmanship due to 'nothing bad should happen to my child' or it's not their fault."
Another mom, Kristy York, responded, "we’ve played several teams this past season that the parents...OMG.... there’s a difference in cheering on your kids (or team) and taunting the opponents...we’ve had PARENTS chanting, screaming, bells, horns etc., so loud the batter (and) umpires couldn’t hear (the) coach trying to get their attention from 20 feet away....it’s disgusting IMO..."
In my ten plus years as a sports parent, I have certainly witnessed similar situations. It's not pretty folks. I am typically left embarrassed for the parent who carelessly allows the words to spew out of their mouths. I often wonder if they feel the same shame. I doubt it.
Part of what is happening in the world of youth sports is a direct reflection of what is happening in general society. There is an entitled culture of adults that expects a reward for just showing up. That is easily passed along to their kids, as sports mom Christa Morehouse, explains:
"Society as a whole is failing. Morals and values are gone. Respect is a thing of the past and the amount of people who believe they no longer have to work hard for something and is owed something for doing nothing has increased. Sportmanship isn't a focus of coaches and parents anymore because they want the "W". We need to stop the participation trophy mentality. Parents need to stop being their kids "friends" and parent."
According to a survey, a staggering 75 percent of parents and coaches believe it's the parent's responsibility to instill proper sportsmanship ideals into their kids. Coaches are definitely outnumbered by parents, but they can also make a great impact on the kids they (mostly) volunteer to coach if given the opportunity.
So, what can we as parents do to encourage sportsman like behavior in our boys and girls?
Don't Be a Sideline Coach
Trust that the coach that volunteered to lead your kid's team is qualified. Even if technically you may have more credentials, they are the coach and you are not. It's very simple--trust the process, trust the coach, and trust that the values you have instilled in your child will come into play as needed. Be a positive example. Yelling from the bleachers or sideline will not only embarrass your player, but will not score you any points with the coaches, and as noted above, the other parents.
This has been a classic standard for children, but oftentimes it is not enforced. Enforce it! Do not allow your son or daughter to pout after a bad call from the Umpire, or Referee. These officials are human and can make mistakes, but regardless, they are in authority and your athlete is not. In the future they will encounter bosses, law enforcement, or other positions in authority that will not take to pouting or tantrums very well. It may seem like a stretch, but we are seeing this behavior in our modern social circles quite a bit. It starts when they are young, and at home.
It's Just a Game
To many of our players the thought that what they are working so hard for is 'just a game' is blasphemous. I can certainly understand that! However, in the grand scheme of things, even at the professional level, it really is just that, a game. Their character, and how they handle adversity will be with them forever, even after the game is far over.
Embrace The Loss
Teach them that with every loss, every bad call, every unfair ruling, there is something to be learned. Whether it is to work harder, or even just change their strategy, they can call it a learning experience.
Win With Humility
This is one that I think many parents miss. I won't deny that winning is awesome. We all play to win, and when we reach that goal it feels really great. What many of us forget is that for every winner, there has to be a loser that wanted it equally as much. Celebrating is certainly a good thing. However, when facing your opponent after the win, it's important that we teach our kids to do it gracefully. Not with boasting, but with humility. Acknowledging that they too worked hard, and their pain is real. You never know when you will meet your adversary again, he or she may even be on your team next season! Set the right example for others, win with dignity and grace.
While sportsmanship is at a low in youth sports, it doesn't have to be! As parents we have the power to reverse the trend by bringing back respect for authority, humility, and good attitudes so that our kids can take the invaluable attribute that is sportsmanship into adulthood.
Have you noticed a decline in sportsmanship in youth sports in your area? What do you think can be done to bring it back?
Barbara is the mom behind the blog, Modern Sports Mom. She began writing a craft and lifestyle blog in 2012. As life evolved, and her boys became more involved in sports, she aimed to create a site that would resonate with moms like her, and in 2017 Modern Sports Mom was born. A baseball and football mom, she is fueled by her strong faith, dedication to her family, and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee! Barbara lives in beautiful Southern California with her husband, kids, dog, and cat.