By K. Peak
Well, at time of writing, the 2000 Summer Olympics are in full swing. The United States has been making a great show in many events. Some countries that have never won medals are taking home even the gold. Australia is being a wonderful host. Interviewed athletes are commenting about how honored they feel that kids want to be "Just like me." Well, NEWSFLASH, I do not want my son to be just like you. I will teach my son there is far more to sports that what you are teaching. I have only once seen footage of a losing athlete go up and congratulate the coach of the winning team. Nor have I seen a winning athlete go and console a losing one who was not on his or her team. Only once, in the Men's Vault, did I see a loosing coach go and congratulate the coach of a winning competitor. Maybe it has happened more and the media is to blame for not showing clips of good sportsmanship and gracious losing. However, a big part of me doubts it. I am not a big Olympic or even sports watcher, but I do occasionally. Much of my extended family is VERY big into sports. Rarely have I seen competitors congratulate those from other teams or countries on a job well done or an effort well made during an Olympic trial. I see far worse on the regularly shown sports that bombard us daily on the television.
What are our kids missing? They see what hard work and dedication (often obsessive dedication) can bring: glory and a moment of fame. They see people who have over come odds such as war-torn countries, poverty and emotional pain to become stars. They see that the human body can perform great feats. Where is SPORTSMANSHIP? I remember playing Little League far too long ago. No matter how badly our butts were beaten or how badly we beat another team, we all had to go and congratulate or be congratulated. Should we do something underhanded like spit in our palm before shaking hands, better believe we'd get it from the coaches. If not the coaches, then many of our parents would rip us apart for bad sportsmanship. I see a great lack of sportsmanship being taught by example from those our youth want to emulate.
The same week I am writing this, a huge melee broke out after a youth football game. A parent got angry at a referee after the son's team lost. Next thing you know, a woman was charged with resisting arrest and a YOUTH PLAYER for assaulting an officer. There's a lesson for our kids. In another incident at a hockey rink in Massachusetts, a father stabbed and killed another father out of anger over something Hockey related. There's a great lesson in sportsmanship for you. How many times do we see brawls at baseball games – bench clearing brawls? How often do we see an elbow thrown during a basketball game? How about the cheap shots taken in Hockey? And we think the fake Wresting crap on TV is bad? At least it is not real. I am appalled at what Wrestling shows but a good parent will teach the child it is staged. (I used to take Tang Soo Do at a place that also trained these Wrestlers. I got to watch the choreographing of matches and then could watch the finished product – yes, it is fake… sorry kiddies). You cannot teach your kids that these fights and underhanded shots from true athletes during games are fake. They are not. You cannot deny the fact that either it is not being done or the media is failing to show Olympians congratulating other teams for wins.
How many athletes use performance-enhancing drugs? How many athletes do we see getting arrested for drugs or violent behavior? What about the sexual escapades? Is this what we want our budding youth athletes to emulate? Are we out to teach our kids that sports are the only way to go? What about academics? All it would take is one broken leg to end a career before it starts – then what? Can the student cut it academically and become more than an Al Bundy sitting on the couch reminiscing about high school football and supporting his family by selling shoes? It takes very little to end a potential sports career: injury, disciplinary action, or a better athlete from another school getting drafted. Even if the rare student goes pro, the career can end abruptly.
But I digress. The real topic is sportsmanship. What are the lessons being taught? Winning is everything and should be done at all costs – even if you may get suspended. If you do not like a call, start a fight. Act like your jerk of a parent; insult other teams and the referees. Hey, those refs are blind anyhow and deserve to be harassed. Is this what you want your child learning? What about humility, respect and no one can win all the time but if you truly put your best effort forward and played the best you can, this is what sports are about. Doing the best you can regardless of the outcome and GRACOIUSLY accepting victory or defeat.
How many city-run sports leagues are canceling championship competitions? Now, what lesson is this teaching? Well, that because adults can be such jerks the kids have nothing to strive for. Have you ever sat at a little league baseball or soccer game? My husband jokes about us getting a minivan soon and me becoming a Soccer Mom. Well I've seen some of these Soccer Moms and truthfully, this is a rank I do NOT want to be in. Actually, I'd consider it an insult. Many of these Mom's behave worse than the dads at their children's' games. No wonder so many communities are ending end of the year championships and some even stop keeping score at games! Because of parental behavior, kids are losing out on another important life lesson. Instead, our kids are learning to be jerks. Is this what we want?
My favorite sport to watch is the World's Strongest Man Competition highlights on ESPN. Riku Kiri, Magnus ver Magnusson, Joe Onosai, Bob Wier and the others, now there is sportsmanship. After an event, they congratulate each other. If someone gets injured, they all show concern. If there is a question of a call, I have YET to see a fight break out. The families cheer each other on. These games are also similar to Highland Games, which I love to go to when I can. But again, I have seen more congratulating at the Highland Games I have gone to – sincere congratulating – that I ever have at a children's games.
Honestly, my husband and I hope our son becomes a nerd. I do not want him learning the present lessons of the playing field. I do not want him learning about sportsmanship from some of these coaches and parents and others. I do not want him worshipping some sports figure that cannot keep the white powder from his nose, the needle from his arm, his fly zipped… I do not want him thinking that it is good graces to sulk openly after a loss and fail to congratulate the victor. Chances are that person worked just as hard if not harder and deserved the victory. I do not want my son to learn to blame referees and judges for his loss. Did the athlete perform to his best?
If my son chooses to emulate any athlete, I wish it to be the Riku Kiris and Magnussons of the world. I want him to learn that no matter the outcome of an event, you take it graciously. You do not insult or yell – at least not outwardly. If you lose, you congratulate the victor for he or she probably worked as hard as you – if not harder. For every winner, there has to be a loser and there is always another competition.
So, next time you go to your child's sporting event, take a look at your actions. What are you teaching your child? What are the coaches teaching? What are the sports stars your child idolizes truly role-modeling? Is it all what you want your child to be? For me, no, I do not want me son being a snotty, spoiled brat like so many popular athletes are. Sadly, the sports stars I like are not popular. You will never see these Strong Man competitions replacing Monday Night Football. Sadly, I see more good sportsmanship and honorable behavior in half-hour ESPN World's Strongest Man highlights than I can in an entire season of any popular televised sport be it baseball, hockey, basketball or football. What lessons in sportsmanship is your child being taught?