Write Team: Abstain for the love of the game

The thrill of victory. The agony of defeat. The emotional rollercoaster of momentum shifts. The camaraderie of teammates.

Tactical and technical skills are developed. The knowledge shared by coaches and team members that is reflected on and off the field. Lessons learned by winning and losing. But the main thing is that it’s fun, or it should be. Sport. Games that are valuable for more than just the skills shown.

As an educator and parent, I have always been a strong supporter of sports. I have the outrageous behavior that occurs after a bad phone call or adult harassment of the kids on the field, and I can never condone that either.

I witnessed this when my kids were playing sports, and it saddens me that the cycle continues while my grandkids are playing. It’s time to grow up and be the positive role models our kids need.

Sport has endless benefits for physical, emotional and mental well-being. Physically, sport can develop lifelong healthy habits such as a healthy heart, improve muscle fitness and maintain a healthy weight. Emotionally, sports can reduce anxiety/stress, increase creativity, improve cognitive performance and improve emotional intelligence, especially when things don’t go your way or when you lose.

In addition, children can develop the elements of a growth mindset by viewing failure as a form of learning and understanding that skills can improve with effort. Mentally, with the exertion associated with exercise, the body naturally releases feel-good chemicals leading to a better mood and increased focus/concentration. All of these traits carry over into life off the playing field. This was a big reason why I embraced sports for my students as an educator.

Finally, sport not only teaches life skills but also acts as a form of motivation for some to maintain a good reputation academically.

Feeling success lends itself to more success.

All those things are good reasons to do sports. So when do the problems start? When adults cross boundaries.

As a reminder, there is a human element to refereeing matches. Also, these individuals do volunteer work or are paid very little to abuse the stands. Coaches fall into the same category. I understand there could be a bad call or a coach who doesn’t have the player’s best interests at heart; however, that does not mean yelling at these individuals or vice versa, which can escalate into more unruly behavior.

On the contrary, most coaches/umps/refs give up their time for the love and passion of the game.

Recently, at my grandson’s baseball game, the opposing coaches were constantly yelling in the umpires’ faces about specific calls at the plate and on the field. The umpires took the verbal abuse multiple times and issued many warnings before finally ejecting two coaches from the game. Then that team’s parents started their outbursts from the sidelines, including yelling at the opposing team’s fans. Here’s the kicker- THESE ARE 10-YEAR-OLDS! Are we real? I’ve seen this in games from an even younger age. Think what those kids are being taught by people who are supposed to be role models and adults?! This behavior teaches rights; if I don’t get my way, I throw a tantrum, disrespecting other people involved and the game being played. All of these behaviors go beyond the field. They enter the classroom, workplace, etc.

I understand the emotional roller coaster of sports, but we should all be modeling what good sportsmanship looks like. Life reflects sports. A curved ball comes out of nowhere. We have difficulty working with others or with a particular skill. We need to learn that things aren’t always fair, but that there are much less volatile ways to handle situations.

Sports should always be fun, especially for children aged 5-12. However, the stakes rise if children want to continue playing sports as they get older. Skills become apparent and differentiate some from others.

Maybe some kids don’t show up for workouts, don’t put in the work, or display disrespectful behavior.

Guess? They probably won’t play – and they shouldn’t – or it will be minimal. Most coaches give playing time to non-starters if they either win by a significant margin or have no chance of winning. But when a championship is at stake, the starters play. Again, all the learning curves and challenging lessons are a bit of a swallow for some.

I watched my kids play with both low and high stakes. It’s emotional because you want your kid to do well and you want the team to win. However, I wouldn’t yell at the opponents to drop the ball or tell them they stink. Unfortunately that did happen. What causes adults to behave this way? Are they trying to live through their kid, or do they think they’ll turn pro at ten? I don’t have the answer. The percentage that happens is 0.00075%!

A perfect example is that my son set records in baseball at all levels and received many awards. He holds multiple IESA records, high school records, and multiple records at the collegiate level, most notably breaking Kevin Kiermaier’s (a current MLB player) long-standing single-season home run record. Along with all those records, he was on the draft board in 2017 and still didn’t get drafted. He loved baseball from the time he first picked up the bat until the end of his career.

That joy and passion is what I hope all children experience. He was lucky to have had phenomenal coaches at every level, teammates and families around him. These people became like family – another positive effect of being part of a team. As a parent I am more than grateful to all of them.

Let the kids play the game and enjoy every minute of it. If not, I bet they burn out or lose their love for the game. There is no need to go crazy by arguing or coaching from the stands. Believe me; the children know what they have done well and what they still need to improve. You are not only embarrassing yourself, but also your child. Being at a sporting event should be fun for everyone involved.

Adults, please show good behavior. For the love of the game – remember, unless you are a good sport in both victory and defeat. The children are watching.

Lee Ann Raikes lives in Ottawa and now teaches at the Regional Safe School in Peru. She has been teaching for 18 years.

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