I absolutely love watching my children compete in organized sports. I have been a parent for 34 years. Growing up, I came from a very athletic family and I’m happy I have athletic kids. Through the years, I’ve enjoyed cheering for my kids and their teammates in volleyball, dance, soccer, football, (We don’t allow this particular sport anymore. If you want to know why, read this.) baseball, cross country, and track-and-field. In addition to the pure joy and excitement of observing my children as they strive to achieve their personal bests, I love sportsmanship. High school sportsmanship is particularly beautiful.
There’s nothing quite like witnessing teenagers rising above their raging hormones and egos to give accolades to someone who bested them. It’s also wonderful to see humble victories. I’ve witnessed many an exhausted runner who took first place but reached out a hand to help someone up after defeating him or her on the track.
When adults give sports a bad name
There’s nothing worse than seeing high school sportsmanship unravel when a parent, or worse yet, a coach fails to exhibit sportsmanlike behavior. You know the type of coach I’m talking about. He or she is the kind that breaks a kid’s spirit instead of helping him or her reach full potential. Do you know a coach who belittles a team and is never satisfied, even when players or runners give their all? In my opinion, this type of coach should be fired on the spot. The trouble is many coaches are volunteers and those are hard to find. Even coaches who are paid are not easily replaced.
A coach who failed the high school sportsmanship test
The other day, I was at a track meet. There happened to be a senior girl on the other team that I and everyone in our district greatly admires. She is a superb distance runner. She stands tall (at approximately 6’1) over her opponents. However, she is the epitome of a good sport. You have to be the best of the best to beat this girl. Even when my daughters have to run against her, they don’t mind because they admire her skill. They also admire her sportsmanship. My girls have told me on several occasions that when this runner passes you on the course or track, she offers encouragement as she goes by, such as, “Keep it up! You’re doing great! Don’t forget to breathe!”
The runner is not the problem. Her coach is. He is the antithesis of a good sport. It is common in high school sportsmanship for coaches and athletes opposing each other to socialize and encourage one another during a meet. The other day, we witnessed this coach ream out this first-place runner. He scolded her. The coach told the girl he had better not see her doing what she did again or else there would be trouble. What was her crime? She had smiled and engaged in a short conversation with our coach and some of our runners. He also reamed out our coach and athletes for talking to his runner.
The wrong message
Thankfully, this young lady is a senior and she will no longer have to endure her coach’s mean-spirited, poor sportsmanlike behavior. I am so thankful my kids are not on this man’s team. We have beyond-excellent coaches. They love our kids as their own. Our coaches are firm but encouraging and they know how to draw out each athlete’s strengths. Our kids are taught to overcome their weaknesses. Most of all, they learn to respect others and to be good sports at all times, no matter what.
The mean coach on the other team is teaching his runners to disregard the dignity of the person behind the cleats. He’s teaching them to see only an enemy instead of a fellow athlete. This coach is taking the fun out sports.
Make sure high school sportsmanship is a high priority
You don’t stop being a parent when your kids step into a high school athletic arena. Yes, as parents, we must allow coaches to do their job. There’s a time and a place and a way to approach a coach if you have a problem. However, for your child’s sake, make sure you’re choosing environments where they are learning to be good sports. An athlete can be highly competitive and still be kind and respectful when an opponent says hello or wishes him or her good luck, or offers congratulations on a job well done. High school sportsmanship isn’t just for athletes. It’s for coaches, too.