I saw a television commercial during an NFL game this year about sportsmanship. In the commercial young children repeat negative comments about officials, coaches, and players they were exposed to at home. At the end of the commercial the kids say they want to grow up to be like their dad. This commercial made it into a lot of homes through a television screen and probably caused many adults to consider the powerful effect their words have on children. Poor sportsmanship displays by adults are inexcusable and are a growing concern in youth sports. For children to have the best experience in youth sports, good sportsmanship must be exemplified by adults. Most adults should have the discernment to know when enough is enough, but sometimes a little education is necessary.
Good sportsmanship must be modeled by adults. In youth sport, the quality of a child's experience is determined by the adults (Omli, LaVoi, Bjornstal 2008). This is one reason why it is so important for adults to exemplify good sportsmanship. Most people have experienced first hand, or seen a story about the way a parent has crossed the line with negative comments and destroyed the enthusiasm and spirit of young kids. This happens most frequently when adults are yelling at the referee or coaching from the sidelines (Omli, LaVoi, Bjornstal 2008). Whatever the case may be, poor sportsmanship is destructive in the youth sports arena. There is an old saying that goes: "Let the players play, officials officiate, coaches coach, and spectators spectate."
Lack of education about good sportsmanship is no excuse for an adult who crosses the line. Adults should possess at least some discernment to know when they have gone too far with negative comments. Many adults understand when it is okay to speak up and when to say nothing. It would be hard to find any parent who didn't want their child to have a positive youth sport experience, but sometimes it is hard to tell based upon their behavior. Because of this, there is still a need to educate parents about good sportsmanship.
The responsibility to ensure that parents are presented with information about good sportsmanship should start as a responsibility of league administrators. League administrators could employ research-based strategies such as Minnesota PLAYS or develop their own sportsmanship creed. Some high schools and colleges read a sportsmanship creed before every game. After league administrators develop a curriculum they should hold a meeting with coaches. Coaches should then be required to hold parent meetings before the season starts to specifically discuss good sportsmanship behaviors along with any other important or relevant information to the season. In the end, the responsibility of good sportsmanship falls on each individual. Every parent and adult should be responsible enough to know when they are displaying good sportsmanship or poor sportsmanship.
Every youth sport parent wants their child to have a positive experience. Good sportsmanship plays a huge role in shaping positive experiences. Children are full of spirit and enthusiasm and adults should seek to kindle the enjoyment.