Setting Good Example for Our Children
by Cindy G. Foust
As I sit here in enjoying the warmth and comfort of my home on this “snow day,” I am trying to decide how to broach this month’s column. How do I address the subject of good sportsmanship, when I have in fact, been a parent that yells at the umpire? I have also been the parent that has been verbally assaulted by parents on the “other” team. And while I am in confession mode, I am also the wife that texts or calls her husband (who has been banished to sit in his lawn chair in right field), because we can “still hear you yelling.” So, to set the record straight…I need to practice what I preach. Recently, I witnessed some pretty disappointing “adult” behavior during a church league basketball game, incidentally, for 8 and 9-year olds. The only good news in this story is that this behavior was not demonstrated in front of this coach’s young team. However, the hurt it caused was unnecessary and unwarranted. Most of the time, sadly, this type of behavior is played out in front of young, impressionable children.
For instance, several years ago, when my son was playing T-ball, on the field next to ours, imagine our surprise when the sheriff’s car came flying up in the parking lot, lights flashing…sirens on. Two grown men were in an “altercation,” and these two men had wives that also decided to get in on the WWE action. No, really. Unfortunately, this baseball diamond drama was played out in front of children. I was never clear on the details exactly, but I think the “disagreement” involved a call at home plate by an 11-year old umpire.
Years later, on what is now the eve of baseball, softball and spring soccer seasons once again, I am motivated to write a column for anyone who has children that participates in any type of sporting activities, or for that matter, any type of team sport.
For starters, I think I was clear from the beginning, I’m directing this encouragement to my own homestead as well, when I say, “Parents, don’t be the reason the sheriff’s department comes to your ballpark.” I often write of my son wanting to go into the Witness Protection Program, but I truly think he would escape to Australia if one of his parents caused or was involved in such shenanigans. I know this is an extreme circumstance, but I wonder how many parents really stop and think about how their words and actions might be impacting their children? I, for one, have thought about it many times through the years that my children have played team sports, and witnessed many times, the adverse impact a “grown-up” can have on a child. The reality is, it doesn’t and shouldn’t have to be that way, and parents should be the ones setting the example for “how to act.” Parents are, in fact, the biggest influence on their children.
Discuss being a good sport with your children frequently. We’ve all been told “somebody has to win and somebody has to lose.” Of course, no one ever wants to lose, but the simple fact is, unless the game ends in a tie, there will be a winner and there will be a loser. Discussing ways to handle winning and losing with your children, will keep them focused on good sportsmanship. Secondly, parents use caution when critiquing your children, particularly if they’ve had a less than stellar performance. Also, let your children see you encouraging other players on their team, or, even complimenting players from the opposing team. Remind your children to cheer their teammates on, win or lose. This type of behavior builds good leadership skills and will far surpass your child’s sports-playing years. Finally, always encourage your children to have “fun” and to use every game, every outing and every match as an opportunity to improve their performance. I love to watch college and professional sporting events, and our family is really enjoying the Olympics right now. I can assure you that these athletes, no matter what sport they are involved in, all look like they are having fun. With that being said, encouraging your child to work hard, to always give their best and to assume a leadership position on their team will foster good emotional characteristics that will carry them far past their high school athletic careers. In the end, if this article strikes a nerve with any reader, (myself included) I will bask in the success, that I might help prevent someone from being on cela.com for yelling at an 11-year old umpire; or I might help prevent someone from having to go into their 401(k) for emergency funds for plastic surgery after they got into an “altercation” at the ballpark. Maybe for once, that will make me a winner!