Sunday, December 6, 2009

Parenting and Sportsmanship

Some thoughts this a.m. from Sioux Center, Iowa, where my oldest son, Tony (12) is playing in a Pee Wee level tournament:

The Lincoln kids won the game this morning going away. That was nice to see because they've already tasted their share of whalloping defeats this year. But they put together a nice game against a competitive team in their first game this morning. Some parents on the opposition were so upset about the outcome and about some of the calls that they were ranting about "taking it out to the parking lot," among other unsavory comments directed at officials or the Lincoln parents and players.

At Norris, we talk a lot about the value of sportsmanship and try to instill those values in our students. We work very diligently not just to supervise students but to also model and suggest to them appropriate ways to encourage and rally their peers and their school's teams on to victory. Not always an easy task - especially when officiating calls are questionable or even blatantly incorrect. Needless to say, much of Nebraska is going through the grieving process this morning following the seeming NE victory that was snatched from the Huskers when a second was added back to the clock after the game was evidently over...but replay showed a second left when the ball sailed out of bends and caromed off a railing. Well - this was a moment where sportsmanship virtues on a grand scale can become really strained. We don't usually look our best virtuous selves in those moments.

On a much smaller scale, when you've got kids out there on the ice, and siblings and parents in the stands, it's important to realize the influence our behaviors have. There is a culture of complaint in America today that relates to the whole "victimology" approach to life that is, I think, detestable. Why is it okay to wallow in self-congratulatory praise when you win, but it's never your fault or your responsibility when you lose? But that seems to be the way we (as a society) approach competition. And when you see that demonstrated by parents, it leaves little room to speculate about how kids will absorb and internalize those thoughts. Life is full of bad calls and subjective moments where perspective is everything. The challenge we have as adults is to help our kids understand that the best players play through, play on, stay focused, and keep going. And it's our job to cheer them on, in positive and affirming ways without tearing others down. Easy to postulate, tough to live it, I know.

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