I’ve been stewing on the idea of sportsmanship since Autumn’s weekend softball tournament. Something pretty incredible happened this weekend but I upon reflection, I have mixed feelings about it.
Here’s the story. If you are a sports parent you know what I mean when I say that youth sports is a minefield. Fans don’t stick to their sides as much as they should and many have no qualms about saying inappropriate things in front of the kids – or to them. In the heat of a game anything can happen.
There is clearly a lot of pressure on these kids to perform their best – from coaches, parents, and themselves. Now that my daughter plays on a more competitive team, she sees that other young women expect perfection from themselves too. This adds an entirely new level of stress to the youth athlete as they realize that their teammates work as hard or harder than they do. This drives them to up their game to contribute to the team.
But it doesn’t stop there. Add in parents and coaches who scream at these kids – even the well meaning ones. Hell, I’m guilty of it too. We are lucky, Autumn’s coaches are amazing. They are knowledgable and push the girls in the most positive way. Parents and kids on this team are incredibly supportive and really root for each individual girl. Autumn is already a better player in the few short months since joining this team.
Not all kids are so lucky.
Some teams have developed reputations for bad behavior – anything from cruel heckling to obnoxious screaming and even dirty play (and I’m not talking dust). We witnessed this over the weekend as we encountered a few teams we’d seen before only to have them behave in much the way we expected. I don’t think it necessary to go into details but suffice it to say, we kept to ourselves as a team.
Except for the team our girls tied. It was a very close game with a lot of great pitching and only a few stellar hits. In the end, the girls tied 2-2. The parents were awesome and we all cheered for every good play – regardless of which team made it. Nobody lost their cool, the girls respected each other. I thanked the parents nearest us for being great and they returned the compliment.
Folks, we should not be so surprised that a game could be enjoyable for both sides. Our game was just as loud as the other three going on at the same time but there was no negativity on our field. You know what the best part is? The young women on both teams came together during their breaks to play games, chat, and share snacks. I heard girls on the other team remark that they made friends with “those Cap City girls.” The rest of the weekend you could find members of one team cheering for the other whenever possible.
That is sportsmanship. Especially for young women. Instead of tearing each other down, women should be building each other up. Why can’t it start on the ball field? Why can’t it start with our daughters?
It does not take much to teach it. Our kids want to be good sports, they want to have fun and make friends. As Autumn says, “compete on the field, hang out off the field.” From the mouths of babes…