It's Just a Game
I grew up watching sports. Not on TV, I watched my dad as he played in both city and church leagues. I have many fond memories of watching him and his friends as they ran up and down the court, their shoes squeaking on the shiny wood floor, and the scent of sweat and peppermint gum. Later, I watched my sisters and brothers play in high school and college. (The athletic gene seemed to skip right over me.) From my dad, I learned to appreciate sports. I also learned how to be a very vocal supporter. Most importantly, he taught all of us about being a good sport.
No matter what the result, win or lose, you congratulate you opponent. You don't throw a fit. After all, it is just a game.
This week, the San Francisco 49er's lost to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship game. (I know this because I live in a house filled with males and testosterone. Not because I'm a football fan.) After the game, Kenny Williams, the wide receiver and kick returner for the 49ers, received several death threats for two big mistakes during the game.
Wait. What? Death threats?
What happened to good, old-fashioned sportsmanship?
We have parents who get in fights over soccer games, coaches who stoop to abuse as motivation, and NBA players who live with the greatest sense of entitlement known to man. Don't get me wrong, I think sports are important. Competition is good, and learning to play sports develops our kids bodies and minds. But, we're doing them a huge disservice by putting athletes on these pedestals, by paying them inordinate amounts of money and letting the result of their games boil over and effect our lives long after the television is turned off.
Our kids need to learn that a game is a game. While we work hard to learn our sport, spend time practicing and always do our best, sometimes we mess us and sometimes we will lose- and that's okay. If we do lose, then we congratulate the team who beat us. We don't make excuses, or say lousy things about them, or get into fights.
I've seen enough 8 year-old ball hogs to know that we aren't teaching them enough about the 'team mentality'. Isn't playing a team sport all about letting everyone be involved? What fun is it for the kid who just runs up and down the field, never getting the chance to even touch the ball? They need to learn loyalty to the team they play with, not that you jump ship as soon as you feel you aren't getting the attention or the amount of wins you want. Sport is about more than winning. It's about learning to play together, cooperating, and most of all having fun. Death threats are not fun.
For about 99% of our kids, their sports careers will end once they're out of school. But, whether they go on to be coaches or lawyers or anything, learning good sportsmanship will help them their entire lives.