Respect For Others In Youth Sport : Lost In Quest for Competitive Edge.
Respect is not a four letter word, it is 7, and we seem to have lost our way on its meaning and importance for all those involved in youth sport.
Recent events in an around the sporting world provide evidence on where the standards have gone when it comes to respect for others and sportsmanship.
Respect can be defined as: a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.
When world events, including those in sports, highlight transgressions that show a lack of respect, it can not help but seep into youth sports. This is evidenced by behavior of parents, coaches, athletes and officials. More and more behavior shows a blatant disregard for teammates and opposing athletes, teams, coaches and officials.
This week we explore why we need to do better.
With the access to information never being easier, there is often no filter on violent and abusive transgressions.
We don’t have to look far to find the latest case of abuse and racism, or the blatant disregard for other people. Within sport and in day to day life.
While negativity sells in mainstream and social media, who is ultimately responsible to help us create a more positive environment, one that includes respect for others?
The answer of course is all of us. This applies not just to sports but because this publication has a youth sport and health perspective, we will focus on that.
Examples from recent events illustrate the point.
· The withdrawal of professional tennis player Naomi Osaka citing personal mental health concerns. A classic example of an athlete caring for self should be commended and appreciated rather than ridiculed or subject to scorn.
· The toxic and racial attack levied toward professional hockey player Ethan Bear recently when is team was eliminated from the playoffs. Professional athletes are subject to evaluation in the court of public opinion. This comes with the territory. However, a line is crossed when this criticism brings an athlete’s heritage and takes on racial overtones.
The silver lining is that this athlete has courage and is willing to stand up for his heritage and his values. It is despicable that he should have to , however.
This is also played out publicly and our young athletes see this in real time.
There are too many examples around these points. There are just 2 in the last couple of weeks.
On the other side,
· We see one athletes’ response to a horrific transgression on First Nations children in a residential school here in Canada. Agree with it or not, this athlete has a platform where millions are watching. His demeanor and consideration put a lot into perspective and is a model for the young people whom admire him.
· Thanks to reader, subscriber and friend Luigi Clemente, I was also reminded of this event in high school baseball. This example highlights a tremendous amount of respect and sportsmanship for the opponent in the wake of a victory.
Empathy does not have to be abandoned in competition.
Sportsmanship can be defined as fair and generous behavior or treatment of others, specifically in a sports contest.
Sportsmanship applies to all involved and surrounding the competition. Athletes, coaches, officials and parents. It is a code of conduct where progress in competition does not come at the expense of others.
In my 30 or so years of coaching and teaching, I am always shocked how people react when they win or lose, and/or what they will do to win. All too often, this behavior is at the other extreme of sportsmanship.
Both on the winning and the losing side, perspectives are always rooted through the filter of self. The meaning here is that when we lose, it was a failure from something we did. When we win, it was because of only something we did. The outcome of a competition rarely is decided only by the failure of a competitor. It is often decided by an outstanding performance by winner.
· In baseball, when a batter strikes out, is it the dominant pitcher who is stronger that day than the batter. Or is the batter who failed?
· In hockey, it is a dominant goaltender not allowing any goals. Is that all because of a failure from the offensive team? Or, possibly other factors? Could it have been that the goaltender was better that day? Is that the failure of the offensive players?
Winning is not always the result of someone’s failure. Winning does not have to come at the expense of demeaning, belittling or destroying the opponent.
Consider this example. A 15 year old high school basketball athlete in Western New York was disqualified to play high school basketball even though her situation warranted an ethical and moral need to play.
In short, she was declared ineligible because she transferred to another region and school and played there. The reason she did that was to help her deal with sexual abuse. By going to another region to play temporarily, technically it is violation of eligibility. However, ethically, playing was part of her healing process.
Who declared her ineligible?
Administrators from competing schools (she is a very good player!)
While we talk about youth sports and its role in development, it seems that there are too few cases of respect and too many cases of winning without regard for others.
What can be done in brining respect and sportsmanship back to the forefront of our youth sporting experience?
1. Core values identified and reinforced on respect and sportsmanship. This is not only a definition of the term, but how it translates to day to day activities.
Respect for the sport.
· Respect for the athletes by teammates and non-athletes involved in the competition.
· Respect for the officials.
· Respect for the opponent(s).
· Respect for the coaches and coaches respect for the athletes.
· Respect for the parents and parental respect for everyone else in the sport.
· Respect for preparation for competition, for practice and the developmental process.
· Respect for competition.
· Respect for the outcome, both when it goes the desired way and when it does not.
· Respect for perspective. The purpose of competition and where it fits into our lives. In youth sport, perspective often gets lost.
2. Respect and sportsmanship modelled at every turn by the adults involved including the organizations outlining this expectation as often as possible.
a. In coaches training
b. In officials training
c. In administrator and parental communications and policies.
Expectations meaning standards that will be strived for and those that will not be accepted. The first step is to document them, then to act on them consistently. It is not enough to talk about expectations, but rather hold people accountable for transgressions, while recognizing outstanding dedication.
3. Ongoing examples and education around respect and the goals of competition. There is so much focus on outcome at the youth level that forest can often not be seen through the trees. The purpose of youth sports is not to win. It is to develop and progress while learning from the process of comparing skills and tactic versus an opponent or standard….with respect towards all involved.
Activating Athlete Development - Quality Sport OS
Friend of The Physical Movement Matt Young an his team have a webinar coming up that should be of interest:
As you know we have two options as we return to sport
1. Rush back to the same process responsible for the pre-pandemic decrease in participation
2. Demonstrate value to the consumer through a commitment to quality sport experiences
Join us, Thursday June 10th 4pm PST - 7pm EST where we’ll share the same knowledge, tools & resources licensed to Canada’s largest participation sport + the largest working sport organization in the world.
This webinar is for parents, coaches, educators and club administrators who aspire to get to where sport has not been before by doing what has done been done before by activating athlete development through the quality sport operating system.
Register here to attend and please feel free to share with anyone in your network who could benefit from the information exchange.
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