Two of my grandkids play organized sports – basketball, soccer, softball and baseball. There are plenty of good reasons to play: health, socialization, teamwork, discipline and commitment. In my opinion the best reason for young children to play sports is to learn good sportsmanship. Winning is fun but learning to lose with grace is a gift. Statistically most grade school students are not destined to become professional athletes, however most will have to learn to deal with disappointment, failure and loss in their lives. So being a good sport is more about being good and less about sports.
Recently my nine year-old granddaughter played in a basketball game. The coach on the opposing team screamed at the top of his lungs throughout the entire game. He was truly hostile. He berated his players, he yelled at the referees, he shouted direction and correction non-stop. He was a textbook example of poor sportsmanship. How sad for the young girls on his team – several of whom shouted back at him to “shut up!” during the game. I was dumbfounded. This is 4th grade basketball in a Catholic school! It was hard to watch.
My first reaction was to give this guy a piece of my mind and then to send an angry letter to the Athletic Director of his school or the pastor of his parish or the Archbishop. But then I decided my energies would be better directed in a more positive way.
So instead here’s my open letter to Anna’s coach:
Thank you for your kindness toward my granddaughter. Thank you for your time and talent with these precious girls. Thank you for helping them learn and letting them have fun. I know that Anna loves her team and loves to play. I also know that she lacks height and talent but she has heart and soul. You are teaching her valuable life lessons: teamwork & team spirit, willingness to try harder, self-confidence, and most importantly good sportsmanship. She may be the tiniest player on your team but you and I both know that she is almost always the first to take a knee when a teammate is hurt. You can teach her to play tough but you are also teaching her compassion. Thank you for your good example.
God bless you,
A Grateful Grandfather
It’s interesting to me that during that awful game, my seven year-old grandson leaned over and said to me, “The other team is winning but Anna’s team is playing a better game, because they’re being good sports.”
Out of the mouth of babes…