At a recent baseball game coaches were yelling at players, onlookers in the stands were screaming at players!
No, I'm not talking about a recent World Series game. I was at a little league game and the players were six years old.
Baseball, America's pastime, is probably one of the only sports that I actually understand as a spectator (honestly, at football games I just cheer when everyone else does!). When I was younger, my brother and a lot of my friends played baseball so I would say I've spent a lot of time at the field in one way or another. Yet, I don't remember people getting out of hand and screaming, not like that.
These days though I have seen some adults get out of hand!! Or maybe its just my perspective because I'll admit, I'm not a little league regular. I'm the Aunty that comes to games to cheer on my nephews. I'm an observer at best and put my naturally loud voice to good use when cheering for their team or when teammates make a good play.
My friends with kids are starting to plant their young roots in the tradition of organized sports. Games like baseball and other sports have a lot to offer our children. It's an opportunity to learn values such as dedication, grit, teamwork and compassion, all while having fun. To teach children that sports is about fairness, ethics and respect, not winning at all costs. Kids develop physically but more perhaps importantly, make life long friendships, especially here on the islands. In fact, research tells us that children learn a lot through play and hands-on experiences and I would imagine playing sports falls into that learning opportunity.
I was so baffled by what I saw at my nephew's game and then other friends started sharing stories too. I heard a story about the coach of my friend's his son's baseball team. The coach would yell things like, "You guys suck," or "That was a shitty inning". When parents tried to counter by being supportive and tell the kids "It's okay, good try," he would refute their efforts by screaming, "No, it's not okay!" He would berate their mistakes and humiliate them. But here's the thing. These kids were six years old!
And it's not just the coaches. Sometimes parents misbehave too. Yelling from the sidelines to "trip him" or "kick his ass" as their youngsters are on the field. Or worse yet, fighting with other parents out of frustration or anger. Not cool. Especially when kids are so young.
How can this be okay? Let's do better. Let's remember that kids are watching and learning from you, all the time. As coaches and parents, your words can either inspire or crush a child's spirit. You may think its not your responsibility to nurture and care for these children but if you're going to be involved as a coach, league president, team mom, a parent or family member, its is definitely part of your responsibility. You are there to teach sportsmanship, technical skills and commitment. Or at the very least, lead by example.