Sportsmanship isn’t just for kids

By: Mesa Messenger Sports Editorial Staff


Kids today are taught in gym class the value of sportsmanship, but it seems that many of today’s adults have forgotten those very same lessons. What used to be a fun way to spend a weekend afternoon, watching kids play an organized team sport, turned into a hostile display of parents and coaches getting heated over practically nothing.


If you think this could never happen, there are countless examples of parents overreacting to a pee-wee league baseball game, or to a bad call in a little league soccer game. has an article titled, “8 Psychotic Overreactions by Adults at Youth Sporting Events,” and among the bizarre examples of parents being bad examples, was the story of a father who modified his kid’s helmet to make other kids bleed on the football field. He sharpened the facemask and caused five players to be sent to the bench with lacerations including one kid who had to go to the hospital and get ten stitches in his arm.


Obviously that is an extreme case, like the other seven in the article, but these parents are still out there in the world with kids who at the end of the day, want to play sports with their friends and maybe have some fun on the way. These parents are making it harder for kids to enjoy the sport they love, so much so that those kids often grow to resent the sport and possibly resent their parents.


The question is why do parents get upset or overreact and go so far as to potentially endanger the life of another kid. 9News in Denver wrote an article saying the cause is, “parents perceive someone is being uncaring toward their child, they think something unjust has happened in the game, or they see their child performing ‘incompetently.’”


And sometimes it’s not even the parents, it’s the coaches. Bloomberg columnist Harlan Coben described a youth lacrosse coach in his home state of New Jersey as calling his kids “f—–g re—ds”along with throwing clipboards and equipment while cursing out coaches, referees and the kids. Coaches bordering on abuse, or perhaps even crossing the line into abuse, should not be considered role models for kids, let alone be coaching them.


So how can we deal with angry parents or angry coaches so that the environment doesn’t become hostile and that kids can enjoy the most out of the sport they’re playing. For parents, according to the 9News article, asking them why they may be angry is a key first step. If there is trouble at home, if there is an underlying cause that is manifesting itself in a shouting match with the pop-warner coach, communication is key. And just as important as listening to why the parent is angry is responding appropriately not with anger, but with calm. If the situation gets too out of hand, get the coach or the referee to de-escalate it. If the parent appears to be dangerous, like sharpen a facemask to give other kids lacerations dangerous, confrontation is unwise and at that time it may be appropriate to get the correct authorities involved.


For coaches, the same or similar can apply, but at the end of the day it should fall to the coach to be the respectable role model the parents expect them to be. has an article titled, “the importance of not overreacting to athletes’ mistakes,” that outlines how one coach in Kansas City created a more positive atmosphere for his players. Coach Adrion Roberson’s four-step plan involves 1) the ability to diagnose situations, 2) the skill to manage self, 3) the desire to energize others and 4) the discernment to be able to intervene skillfully.


These four steps allow for coaches to use athletes’ mistakes not as a way to berate them, but as a way to teach them. If more coaches employed a model of teaching and not belittlement or shouting, it could potentially get more kids active and teach them to do better in other facets including school, social lives and work ethic.
So parents and coaches, do not get angry with a child. They are not LeBron James, you are not a lifelong season ticket holder, you are not the next Vince Lombardi. Teach these kids to be respectful of each other and of themselves, and then they can achieve their goals.


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