Sportsmanship in youth sports has been on my mind lately. After a one-year hiatus, Eli has joined a recreational soccer team with girls from her class. She prefers to ice skate, but DH and I really want her to develop friendships with other girls her age. Up to now, Miss Eli has been tagging along big brother and his friends.
Big brother, on the other hand, lives and breathes soccer. He is in a competitive soccer league, which requires travel over the weekends and three practices a week. It’s a commitment for our family, but seeing that he likes it and is thriving, it’s been a joy shuttling him to the suburbs for games.
My least favorite aspect of being a soccer mom? Seeing hyper-competitive coaches publicly berate their players when…they. are. kids. This past weekend, I was appalled to hear some of the feedback from the opposing team’s coach. Gems like, “If you want them to score again, keep doing what you are doing!”
Um, the kids are 10. This isn’t FIFA. And if the goal of a coach — or a parent for that matter — is to raise the best soccer player, this isn’t the way to keep a kid interested.
Eli’s soccer league passed out a helpful pamphlet on being a “good sports parent.” Yes, some of the language is a bit touchy-feely — hey, I’m a competitive person, too, I own it — but so much of it spoke to me. There was a part about the importance of filling a child’s “emotional tank”, which the book pointed out is true for adults, too.
When someone is inundated with nothing but criticism, it can be draining and cause low motivation and self-esteem. The book recommended a ratio of 5:1 compliments to criticisms. This has become a running joke in our household, by the way, as DH is highly critical. I started keeping tabs on how often he compliments and criticizes me. “Hey, you have not filled my emotional tank today!” I’ll say. lol!
How do you instill good sportsmanship in your children? What do you do or say when you hear obnoxious coaches or parents?