Every week I write about five things that surprise me enough to get my attention.
This week I’m focusing on just one thing that captured a great deal of my attention—an incident that I experienced at a sporting event my son was participating in.
We were at a weekend baseball tournament outside of the city—a beautiful suburban setting with all of the amenities a park provides—lots of well-groomed and manicured grounds, playgrounds and concessions stands. But the setting wasn’t enough to mask the dysfunction that was going on in the diamond where my son was playing.
Unfortunately there was a misunderstanding between a coach and a player on the opposing team which resulted in temper tantrums, arguments and violence. When I say violence, I mean a 15 year-old boy lost control of his emotions and started to break bats and throw heavy equipment. There was yelling—mostly between the coaches and the parents. Then one of the coaches lost control and began swinging bats and threw one out into the crowd. The player was in such a rage that he actually left the bench and approached a mother in the stands who was trying to put a stop to things. The mother was threatened by the player but (fortunately) was not hurt after his father removed him physically by tackling the player and pinning him down on the ground.
More violence, this time between a father and son.
Is this the picture you have in your head when you sign your young children up for little league baseball at age eight—or any sport for that matter? Do you imagine coaches losing control, parents yelling and children threatening parents in the stands?
I encourage and support my kids in all of their sporting endeavours because I want them to develop into good sports. I don’t care if they make the big leagues or not. I do care if they know how to win and lose graciously. I want them to learn that they won’t always play but they will stay and support their teammates. I care that they’ll learn about hard work. I want them to learn not to give up easily, and how to work with kids from all different kinds of backgrounds. I want them to learn about making sacrifices and choices—that they have a responsibility to their team so a dance doesn’t trump a game.
Being part of a team means something. They learn to be accountable for their actions—they know if their mistake or achievement contributed to the end result. If they get hurt, they are brave. They learn to respect others for their differences and abilities—coaches, teammates and families. But most importantly, they learn about what’s fair and what’s not. It’s not always fair in sports, but you learn to roll with it because everyone is being judged (either by an umpire, ref, judge or a clock) and mistakes can happen. They happen to everyone.
These are only some of the values and lessons that sports can and should instill in young men and women to help prepare them for life.
I don’t want my kids to think that violence, entitlement and disrespect are a regular part of sports. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe they are a part of the experience and will help prepare them for what’s ahead.
But that doesn’t mean I will compromise on what I want them to learn.