Teach Your Children Well

My son’s baseball season is nearing its end, and while the season itself was fine — games were won and lost and skills were learned — I find myself reflecting on some of the experiences we had this year in terms of youth sports in general.

And sadly, some of them were just really crappy.

My son played soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter and then baseball this spring. And while the kids on his teams were absolute troupers, and the coaches he had were really good with them, it was a few individuals we encountered this year who really give kids sports a bad name.

It wasn’t a brawl between coaches or parents or anything like that, but it was flagrant unsportsmanlike behavior by some of the opposing coaches that really left a bad taste in my mouth.

I think sometimes the adult coaches forget they are coaching 9 and 10-year-old kids. KIDS. And that those same kids look up to them as role models. Monkey see, monkey so. I don’t think kids understand the “do as I say, not as I do” concept.

I first noticed it this year during a basketball game. The opposing coach, who was right in front of the parents, literally almost blew a gasket because he was yelling at the kids, these 8 and 9-year-old kids. They weren’t passing correctly, or were double dribbling or were doing something not to this man’s liking. (For crying out loud, they are 8! They are not NBA players.)

He was so frustrated that his face was beet red. He continued to yell at the kids, stomp his foot, and throw his hands up in general exasperation throughout the whole one hour game. The ref had to stop the game twice to speak to the coach. Our team won in the end and this did not make that other coach very happy. And he let each and every member of that team know it, too. It was sad.

At age 8 and 9, you are teaching kids that the only thing that matters is winning? Crazy. My son even said on the way home that the other team’s coach was mean. He was.

Well, fast forward to baseball season. This same coach now coaches a 9, 10 and 11-year-old baseball team. And our kids played them in a recent weekend.

Appalling would be a good word for his behavior.

I’ll set the scene. (Remember, 9, 10 and 11 year olds, ok?)

Batter up, runner on second, batter hits to the outfield, fielder misses the catch, but picks up the ball and throws it clear to third base. The runner is clearly out. Everyone on the bleachers or in the vicinity of third base saw the kid get tagged out. That would include the opposing team’s coach. However, the ump at home plate ends up calling the runner safe. Huh? 

The third base coach, the same man from basketball, bends over to his player and whispers VERY loudly “By the way, you were out.” and turns and walks away, smug little grin on his face. But he does not walk to the ref to challenge the safe call. He knows his player was out but instead, in the quest to win the game, does not do the right thing and call his player out.

What the heck does that teach our kids? That it is okay to win unfairly? That it is okay to not do the right thing?

Now I am no expert at Little League baseball rules, but I am pretty sure you can challenge an umpire’s call if both teams feel it was in error.

During the game, I also overheard this same man speak to one of his players and said in the same very loud voice “Let’s just mercy these guys okay? I don’t want to go home and do any chores.”

What the? Seriously? Where in the equation is good sportsmanship?

You can get mad at an ump, cause well he is an ump and he wears that padding to shield him from mean comments from fans, right? wink. wink. And umps sometimes make bad calls.

I could be in the minority here, but I think a better coach should have known better. A better coach would be concerned about showing the young kids the right way to do things — how to play baseball and how to be good sports about everything involved with it — win, lose or draw.

I hope that in a few years we don’t see the product of this coach’s poor sportsmanship move into the players themselves.

Everyday we see professional athletes who admit to using steroids in their quest to be larger-than-life and do anything to be the best and to win. It is sad, sad, sad. I wonder if when those guys were kids, whether they had good coaches when they played Little League or Pop Warner or whatever they did. Or maybe they had that coach who didn’t play fair.

I do know one thing though. If either of my kids ever had a coach like that, I’d yank them off the team so fast their heads would spin. And I’d let the coach know it.

Kids need to be kids. There is only a very short window that we have. Let them play. Let them win and lose. And most importantly, let them learn good sportsmanship.

It should not only be about winning.

Teach your children well.

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