Friday, August 10, 2012

Sportsmanship

My daughter plays for her high school volleyball team.  A couple of weeks ago they played in a weekend long tournament.  While we were at one venue with her team, the varsity were playing elsewhere and apparently things did not go well.

This is all grapevine stuff but apparently, girls started yelling at other girls they deemed weren't playing well enough.  Then parents got into it.

This got me thinking about how we view playing sports here in America (I'm limiting this to America because I have no clue how other countries view sports).  We seem to put way too much emphasis on winning at too young an age.  I'm not one of those people that thinks we shouldn't keep score.  If the game's rules say to keep score, keep score.  But, when teammates are yelling at each other because they're losing, something's wrong.

I wish we could get people to focus more on doing your best.  If you've been watching the Olympics the last few weeks, you've seen what I'm talking about.  How many of all the athletes competing at the Olympics will get a medal?  Only some very small percentage.  All those people 'losing', though, are thrilled if they've hit some personal best in their event.  You hear it from them over and over again.

I'm not advocating not trying to win.  I just think that if everyone on a team tries to play their best and that's their focus, they will win and when they don't, they can go home knowing they did their best and maybe learned something to make them better next game.

Those of us doing or training for triathlons live this every day.  I used to be one of those guys that would bitch because I made a perfect pass in soccer and someone less skilled flubbed the shot.  I like to think I've grown beyond that kind of behavior.

I'm trying to compete in a sport now where I will probably never win, even in my age group.  But I know if I've done the training I can be happy with an all-out effort and hopefully learn something new about myself or my sport.  I believe that making that the goal in all sports will make us better sportsmen and women and happier athletes and make the actual wins that much sweeter.

6 comments:

  1. Agreed. You are competing in a triathlon, but it only against yourself that matters. You win if you lace up your shoes in the morning and show up on race day.

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  2. I think there's a balance... we should teach sportsmanship (which is what I think you're probably describing), but kids also need to know how to win and lose. In order to teach both, there has to be a winner and a loser.

    My daughter was in softball last year, and her coach had them playing in a tournament before they even had their first practice. Naturally, her team was creamed. Last place. Not even close. But she and her team still walked away with a two foot tall trophy for their effort and participation. I say Balderdash! What kind of lesson does this teach? That you still get the prize even if you don't win? Life simply does not work that way. Does anyone get As in school just for participating? Is it the norm to make however much money you'd like regardless of your job performance?

    It's a strange dichotomy we have today, where parents are willing to throw down over a youth sporting event even though winning and losing supposedly don't matter.

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    1. I suck at replies. I replied below. Thanks for your input!

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  3. Brandon, I've sort of expanded the definition of sportsmanship here. It typically means you win and lose with class. Help a kid up when they've been knocked down, shake hands with the other team after the game, go out and have a beer afterwards with no hard feelings. What I would like to see is the idea of sportsmanship made more internal. Every player worrying most about doing their best. Then there are no issues with kids not wanting to shake hands, yelling at referees or whether or not they got a trophy. This means parents have to help their kids learn from their mistakes and be proud when their kid thinks they did their best. The biggest problem is finding parents mature enough to let their kids learn at the expense of losing. I think that's a rare quality these days (I sure as hell haven't mastered it).

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  4. I very much agree. I just completed my 1st sprint tri last weekend and let me tell you...I was so happy to finish that I almost cried. Seriously. It was such a great atmosphere - everyone was cheering everyone else on and offering words of encouragement (especially on the run) that even though I though I was gonna puke at the end, It was the best experience ever. I wonder how many kids feel that way after each game or season?

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    1. Congratulations on finishing your first Tri! I plan on crying when I finish my first. And thank you for your thoughts on this post. I agree completely (obviously). I'm sure you've come out of your tri with things you never thought you'd be able to do and things you want to improve on. I'd love it if we could teach kids to look for and embrace those things when they compete.

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