Over the weekend, I witnessed what I think is the worst our society has to offer. The parents on both sides of the game failed their children. We reinforced all that is bad in sports through a display of poor sportsmanship, bad parenting, lack of civility, disregard for honor and a lack of compassion. On Saturday, at a typical elementary school playground field in Northern Texas, I watched the championship game of my 8 year old son’s I9 Flag Football season. It was the the final game of the season.
It was awful.
The parents on both sides were shouting and taunting each other. They were heckling, and even threatening parents from the other team. The parents of the opposing team challenged nearly every call the referee made, and accused him openly of favoritism towards my son’s team. One from “our side” – a coach from my son’s team – was asked to leave the field due to his reciprocating trash talk. It was classy.
My son’s team lost.
On the last play of the game, in what just about any unbiased observer would say was a questionable call, the opposing team scored a touchdown to win by 4 points. Cheers erupted and tears flowed. My son was crying that blubbering cry where he couldn’t catch his breath.
Their parents cheered.
Parents, coaches, league administrators – shame on us all. We missed the entire point. We were wrong in so many ways. I am deeply disappointed in us. And my biggest issue with it all is that fear we simply don’t care.
We don’t care. That’s right. Our behavior yesterday was outright proof of that. We care only about ourselves. Our behavior suggested that vanity, glamour and primetime stardom are what we seek. We surely don’t care about the nurturing of the young people who were on the field. The 2 mothers from the opposing team (the ones who told their children they would pay them in cash if they scored, and ridiculed them for bad play): you are the opposite of what kind of mothers our children need. Our coach who was ejected from the game for taunting: your behavior was shameful.
Youth athletics isn’t about winning & losing. It’s about creating a safe place for our children to fail. A place where when they do fail, they feel confident enough to try again. It’s about developing the foundational life skills needed to succeed in this world. It’s about learning how to lose with dignity, grace & sportsmanship.
Trust me man, I get it. Losing sucks. I have been there and done that. I’ve been on teams with terrible win-loss records. It hurts to lose. However, it is through failure that we learn how to succeed.
“Experience” is not getting what you want.
Youth sports is designed to teach our young people how to overcome the adversity of defeat while having fun. When we forget that, and focus solely on the winning & losing, we have missed the entire point.
Let your children lose. Let them fail. It will help them down the road.