I’ve participated in multiple sports. I’ve played in many games. I’ve been a spectator at thousands of sporting events. I’ve coached a number of different sports. I’ve read hundreds of sportsmanship articles. I’ve never been more puzzled and appalled than I am now.
I feel compelled this evening to give my thoughts on the societal in-accurateness of the purpose of sport and activity. To the fans applauding negative “on court” behavior in our high school gyms, to the pro sports teams exhibiting unsportsmanlike behaviors in front of millions of viewers – I’ve reached my limit.
My life revolved around sports. I slept with a basketball and knocked off the popcorn finish on my ceiling just about every night. I shot baskets until my fingers bled in negative degree temperatures. I could name every major league baseball player on every team in the late 80’s and 90’s. I idolized pro-athletes such as Michael Jordan, Ken Griffey Jr, Don Mattingly, and Joe Montana. I wanted to be like Mike.
Unfortunately, my love for sport seems to be fading. The cynical mindset that exists in many that “we must win at all costs,” “my child is better than yours,” “if you wrong me, you can bet I will wrong you back.” We can think of many others. “the refs cost us that game,” “if only the coach would have played you,” “you just don’t have the right last name.” I have a million more in my head, but you know them all already. This is not healthy! If you are at an event and these phrases are rolling through your mind – please leave.
The purpose of sport is to grow our character, not diminish it. I don’t care who you are. You can be the student athlete, pro athlete, parent, fan, etc.; people are watching you. Yes, somebody is watching you. Somebody admires you. Kids are watching you. They will practice what they see.
We need to change the picture. Competition can yield the best of us, and it can certainly yield the worst of us. I have first-hand knowledge of this from my coaching days. I allowed it to bring out the worst in me. We have got to allow competition to grow our character. When we are able to embrace losing, forgive the enemy, and brush the chip off our shoulder we will then be back on the road to healthy sport.
I would like to send a shout-out to those that sparked this blog post. To the pro athletes and teams who let negative behavior cost them the game – you got it wrong. To the fans everywhere that demean refs and applaud negative behavior at our nation’s high school sporting events – you continue to get it wrong. To athletes and their parents that are out there for personal glory – you are getting it wrong as well. To the parents of elementary and high school aged kids – if your anxiety at a game out weighs your joy – you’ve got it wrong as well.
Please let this be a “check yourself” moment. There is more to life than winning. Having anxiety as a parent/athlete/spectator is not healthy. Two wrongs, never make a right. When you have one wrong and a right follows…the right always trumps the wrong.
Let’s get things right again.