Be a Good Sport

I stopped playing Monopoly in college.

Guy and I and another couple spent a weekend together at his parents’ home in Santa Cruz. Late Saturday afternoon I witnessed a game of Monopoly transform my kind and generous friends into greedy Wall Street sharks.

And that was it. I quit playing mid-game and tried to disguise my disgust as they each played hard to amass wealth while bankrupting each other. I tell you this not because I’m anti-capitalism (I’m not), but to demonstrate that competition doesn’t motivate me like it does others.

ballWinning is the goal of game playing. Of course. But I support my kids playing sports for reasons more important than winning:

1. Exercise.
2. Learn to play a game.
3. Be a good teammate.
4. Practice a good attitude.

Winning is a bonus, but those four goals are essential.

About a year ago Teen played a rugby match against a team notorious for their unsportsmanlike conduct. A year prior the club had been fined when it came out that adults paid players per injury inflicted (concussions, particularly) on their opponents. The coaching staff was competitive to a fault and fostered bad attitudes in the club.

Those bad attitudes manned the field and the sidelines. Players and parents alike shouted at their opponents (Teen’s team), at the coaches and the ref. They played angrily and hurled invective as viciously as they stomped the pitch. When I commented to a friend, “It’s just a game!” one of their players standing nearby vomited curse words all over me.

The ref finally called the game when the other team’s parents stormed the field in protest over a call. For the rest of the day I felt dirty. There’s no excuse for that kind of bad behavior over a game played by teenagers. Fortunately, the league agreed and disbanded the team altogether.

Tween plays on a basketball team. Only in his second season, he’s not the team’s strongest player but he enjoys it and has definitely shown improvement. The team, however, is remarkable. They look like misfits but have won all but one game which they lost by one penalty shot. Watching this team learn to work together and play hard – and then win week after week – has been a highlight of my Saturdays this winter.

A dad of one of the kids on Tween’s team keeps up a steady commentary of mostly negative remarks throughout each game. It’s bugged me all season, especially when I see his kid, a pretty good player, glance to him for approval and look away again, crestfallen.

Today I snapped. Seated one bleacher behind me and slightly to my left, with no one between us, he shouted: “Oh No! DON’T give the ball to Tween!”

I surprised myself when I spun towards him and said, “Can you please stop?”

He looked as if I’d slapped him. “What?” he asked.

“That’s my kid. You don’t have to say unkind things.”

And get this response, people: “I just want to win the game.”

Did he really tell me that if my kids’ hands touch the ball the team will lose? Yes, that’s exactly what he meant. And let’s be clear, AS IF your snarky remarks in the bleachers are going to have any effect whatsoever on the court. How rude!

I responded more politely than I felt: “So do I. So does he! But your unkind words don’t do anyone any good.”

He didn’t shut up completely, but he sure didn’t mention Tween again. And we won the game, a hard-fought 28-24.

Children’s sports should be a safe place to learn, to experiment, to exercise, and to grow as positive human beings. And children, like the rest of us, need encouragement. Truth be told, I cheered today for the great baskets shot by the opposing team as well as our own. When a kid makes a great shot, it’s a great shot worthy of praise.

Winning isn’t everything, attitude is. On the field and in the stands, win or lose, I pray my kids will always exhibit grace and kindness.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s