Team sports are supposed to teach children about good sportsmanship, but it's often the parents who need a lesson in civility!
There seems to be a constant stream of stories in the news about sports parents hootin', hollerin' and duking it out with other parents -- or even other kids! But this very brand of unruly behavior undermines what team sports are supposed to teach kids in the first place: good sportsmanship.
"As a sideline parent, you always have to be aware of the example that you're setting for your child," says Cathy "Coach" Schick, athletic director of the Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences. "Remember that it's your child's game -- not yours. Good sportsmanship is about playing well, playing fair and showing mutual respect. When teammates, opponents, coaches, officials and parents treat each other with respect, your child will understand that the real winners in the game are those who know how to act with courage and dignity."
And to remind us of what dignity is, Coach Schick shares her sideline-parenting ground rules:
Don't coach your children from the sidelines, shout instructions or call out to them on the field. You might be undermining what the coach is trying to accomplish, and your kid has to focus on making difficult, split-second decisions while playing. Encourage your child to be independent and make quick decisions on her own, without the benefit of your two cents.
Don't approach or call a coach when you're upset or angry -- especially on game day. Cool down and think through what you want to say in a calm, rational manner. Yelling rarely yields results. If you have serious concerns about the way the games or practices are being conducted, set up a one-on-one private convo with the coach at a later date.
Don't bad-mouth the coach, game officials, other players or opponents to other parents or to your child. Refs make the occasional bad call, but gossiping creates a negative tone that can harm an entire team. Deal openly with your coach about any issues. And remember: The opposing team is not your enemy. Without them, there's no game!
Do support your kid with positive words and actions. Encourage a little pre-game practice and talk about your child's skills and strengths in a way that shows your confidence and support.
Do encourage your child to self-advocate. If your child has a concern with the coaching staff or a member of the team, listen to your child's thoughts and then encourage her to speak directly to the coach or teammate in a way that is positive and constructive. At the very least, your child will gain the confidence of knowing that she can stand on her own and manage her own conflicts.
Do familiarize yourself with the game so you can stay involved and provide support and encouragement. It shows your child that you care and can prevent potentially embarrassing moments -- like when you call out, "Three in the key!" while your child's basketball team is on defense!
Do be a positive role model for your child by showing good sportsmanship in the stands. Good players develop over time while gaining the confidence to learn to think for themselves. Good sportsmanship starts with something as simple as shaking hands with opponents before a game, or acknowledging exceptionally good plays by the opposing team. Temporary setbacks are the price of progress and can be opportunities to help players improve. And be sure to leave the officiating to the officials!
Remember, sports are supposed to be fun! Set an example of positivity, courage and dignity, and you'll teach your kid as much about good sportsmanship as the game itself.
|Vivian Manning-Schaffel has written for Babble, Parenting, The Advocate, The New York Post, Business Week and a variety of other publications and lives and works in the heart of breeder Brooklyn with her husband and two kids. She authors two pop culture blogs: The Mad Mom and A Hag Supreme, and is on the Web at vivianmanningschaffel.com.|