Monthly News Article for April 2022
Trinity County Office of Education
Sarah Supahan – County Superintendent of Schools
www.tcoek12.org • (530) 623-2861
By Sarah Supahan, Superintendent of Schools
Creating a healthy sports environment
Nearly everyone with a child in sports has seen that parent or has been that parent who starts screaming from the bleachers at coaches, umpires, and players at a questionable call, a missed ball or a cheap hit. For many, the outburst is isolated, but others yell and complain all nine innings, four quarters or two halves, making life on the field, dugout and bleachers miserable for everyone.
Parents sometimes have such a strong connection with their child that if the coach makes a bad decision, or an umpire makes an apparent bad call, or if the child is not playing well, it feels like a threat to the parent’s own identity and success. It’s as though if the child fails the parent fails, which carries the potential for bad behavior on the adult’s part.
When parents or others blame the referee or question the coach during sports events, the underlying message to the children is that it was someone else’s fault that the team did not win. In contrast, a reflection on how to improve or what to do differently next time is what the players need, with an emphasis on growth, practice and a can-do attitude.
By blaming others parents can also inadvertently harm the “grit” of their children. “Grit” refers to strength of character, but in education it also has to do with persevering, working beyond challenges, maintaining effort and interest despite failure or adversity, and following through on commitments; something we all want to see in our children for their own happiness and satisfaction with life.
Aggressive behavior from spectators is also the cause for other potential harm: a shortage of referees and coaches, many of whom are volunteers, or are paid a small stipend. Nearly 40 percent of officials believe parents cause the most problems with sportsmanship, according to a survey of 17,000 by the National Association of Sporting Officials in 2017. Sixty four percent of referees said they have had to eject spectators from youth games for bad behavior.
If you are one of those people who have a hard time controlling your behavior, having a “calm-down buddy” can help – someone who will let you know when you are getting out of hand. When you feel you want to yell something negative, taking a break to go buy something at concession stand can help. Remembering that adults often teach by example, and reflecting on what kind of example you are showing your child, can help.
We want our kids to love sports and have fun. They want their parents there to watch them and to be encouraging. They don’t want comments on their skills. They don’t want their coaches or other officials that they are taught to respect, be yelled at by someone they know and love. Sure, we want them to be successful, but yelling at them or yelling at others does nothing to increase their skills or chance for winning.
Improved skills only comes with practice, perseverance, and “grit”. Good sportsmanship is an understanding of and commitment to fair play, ethical behavior, integrity, and general goodwill toward an opponent. Good sportsmanship teaches children how to interact on and off the field. It builds teamwork, character, and teaches respect, honor, discipline, kindness, inclusion, resilience, perseverance, and more. Isn’t all that more important than winning a game?