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It's NOT All About Winning MAG
It's a play at the plate and the runner forgets to slide.Our pitcher swings around with the ball and tags the runner hard, in the face. Itwas an accident, so the umpire calls the runner out. She walks off the field andour pitcher returns to the mound.
Just as the game is about to resume,the runner's father charges the pitcher, yelling not only obscenities butthreats. Everyone is shocked - who would have thought a 40-year-old man would actlike a child and run at a 17-year-old girl because he didn't like a call? Becauseof the man's actions our pitcher is thrown out of the game - we are penalizedbecause a father couldn't act his age.
Incidents like this are becomingmore common. Sportsmanship is declining, and the players aren't always to blame.This is unfortunate; after all, isn't the game for the kids?
What exactlyis sportsmanship, and why is it so important? A popular definition is tennisplayer Jim Courier's: "Sportsmanship for me is when a guy walks off thecourt and you can't tell if he's won or lost. It's going out and giving your bestall the way through and shaking his hand at the end."
Or, more simplyput by a player in the Little League World Series, "Good attitude is goodsportsmanship, like not throwing your helmet if you get out."
Inother words, sportsmanship is accepting the call even if you don't agree. It'sgetting past trivial stuff and going on with the game. America is losing sight ofwhat's important, and the kids are the ones missing out.
Do you think thefather at my softball game lost anything by running on the field? His dignity,maybe, but nothing else. The ones who lost were the girls. The fun was gone, andso was our star player. More importantly, our trust in the game, the umpire, thecoaches and sportsmanship was diminished.
As bad as this incident was,there have been much worse, including a California coach who attacked a refereebecause he didn't like a call. The referee was pushed to the ground and kicked,according to one report. What does that teach kids, and what happens when theystart to follow his example? When coaches act inappropriately, parents andplayers think they can, too. It's a chain reaction, building until the behaviorgets out of control.
So what can be done? One of the most importantthings is to get parents to have the right perspective and realize their kids arenot professional athletes.
If parents can remember they're parents androle models, kids can learn what's really important. Winning isn't it; learningto accept losses, understanding fair play, making friends and, most importantly,having fun, are what really count.
Sportsmanship can be saved. If parentscan learn to accept their responsibility, then they can influence the coaches toact responsibly. Once adults act like adults, kids will see their good exampleand do the same.
There will likely always be one rude parent oraggressive coach. That doesn't mean that parents have to respond in the samemanner. They just need to remember to put the athletes first. Ignore the poorsports and remind your teammates to ignore them, too.
Whether it startswith the adults or the athletes, something has to change.
The game endswhen sportsmanship does; it becomes more of a struggle than a pleasure. Thathappened at my softball game. Once the sportsmanship was ruined, the fun stopped,and so did our desire to play. We were lucky, though, because our coach knowsthe value of sportsmanship and made sure we left the field knowing we playedwell. As long as we play our best, keep a good attitude and have fun, we walkaway winners no matter what the final score.