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Good Sportsmanship Starts With Parents

Written By Bill Gosse for the Green Bay Press-Gazette

For a few summers, TeamScore Inc conducted a multi-question study which polled Wisconsin high school athletics directors. These studies were designed to determine the quality of sportsmanship at our school sporting events and the prevalence of incidents of poor sportsmanship. The goal is to pinpoint problem areas so specific poor sportsmanship behaviors can be addressed and improved.

One question asked the respondents to identify three primary reasons for poor sportsmanship at school sporting events. The most frequent answer? Parents.

In 2006, 53 percent of the respondents said parents of athletes exhibit fair or poor behavior. In the recently completed 2007 study, that percentage jumped to 59 percent.

This statistically significant jump indicates the behavior of parents is getting worse. We’ve seen quite a few incidents in Wisconsin and throughout the nation that would support these statistics. My travels as a coach, official, and father of four active boys (with one more growing in the wings) take me to quite a few sporting events, and I certainly see room for improvement.

Another question asked the respondents to name three things that could be done to reduce the level of poor sportsmanship at school athletic events. The number one suggestion offered was better/more education.

I’ve seen numerous articles listing a myriad of positive behaviors for parents to emulate, and thanks to David Letterman, top ten lists are quite popular.

Well, I think ten things are too many to remember, so I’ve come up with my top six things for parents of athletes to keep in mind.

  • Adjust your expectations to focus on something other than wins and losses. Kids develop confidence through wins and are challenged by losses. Both situations are great for kids to experience.
  • Remember that only a small minority of athletes actually receive college scholarships. According to Jack Renkens, Founder and President of Recruiting Realities, only 0.8 percent of high school student-athletes receive a fully funded Division 1 scholarship. So, stop pressuring your child to excel to be recognized. Let him or her play for self satisfaction and fun.
  • Encourage your child and his/her teammates. Studies have shown that the proper ratio between praise and criticism should be 5 to1. Anything less causes our kids undue stress.
  • Allow the kids to play the game. Former Baltimore Orioles baseball player and soon-to-be Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. says we should return the games to the kids, allowing them to have fun on their terms. We should let them develop, let them learn, let them fail, and support them in a way that’s calming. This allows for a positive environment for the kids to learn the game and grow.
  • Volunteer your time to your kids’ coach or the program in which they play. The coach may not need help in coaching the team, but helping transport kids to games, bringing nutritious snacks or
    helping take care of the officials at the games will get you involved and will help you realize that the majority of coaches and officials are well-intentioned people deserving respect; just like you.
  • Always demonstrate good sportsmanship. It only takes one emotional outburst to give yourself, your team, your community, and most importantly your child, a black eye of embarrassment. Your example will be contagious, so make it a good one.

Keeping these hints in mind can improve parental sportsmanship in the stands at sporting events.

Hopefully in the future, we’ll see a drop in the “parent problem” statistic.



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