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Sports Parenting: Teaching the Right Values Should Always Come First

Have you ever been to a game where the coach is yelling abusive things at their team? Getting into arguments with other coaches? Encouraging the junk food rush before games so that the kids will get a good sugar boost of energy? Encouraging dirty play against the other team?

Sadly, I'm sure we all have. I've been parenting for 35 years now and I have never seen the competition be as fierce as it is these days. It seems that the main goal is winning at any cost.

I have seven children and they are fantastic athletes. Years ago, most children did not start sports until well into their junior high years. These days, however, in order to be competitive at the junior high/middle school level, kids and their parents have bought into the idea that they need to start at a very young age.

Our older kids started playing sports in Junior High.  It was great. They had fun.  Sports were a part of their lives; a wonderful part but only a part.  They played for the school team and honor and respect were a big part of the game. Eating an apple before the game and then playing their hearts out was the way. They are now grown and in their 30's.

Now, with our younger kids ages 15, 13 and 10, we sort of stumbled into sports starting at a young age. Our kids were only in first and second grade when they started playing. We did it so they would get some exercise when they were being home-schooled. We are older parents, so we were not in a big hurry to get them into any kind of competitive sports at too young an age.  We knew the commitment and time involved.

Well, they fell in love with rec. basketball. Som every year, they would play a short season. Busy as it was, it was FUN! It turns out that our kids are very naturally athletic. So Rec Ball became just too easy for them. We had friends that encouraged us to try Select Ball.

Select Ball? What in the world is Select? Pay that kind of money just to play a little basketball? With much prayer and digging deep into our pockets we decided that, with the gifts and talents our children had, it would be foolish not to invest in this area of their lives.

This is our third year of Select Ball. The journey has been quite an eye opener. Remember those coaches I talked about? The food that you've seen kids eat? The dirty play and arguments?

Our kids are learning so much from the team sports they play.  The coaches give them encouragement and help them develop the skills to be better players and from their fellow players they learn how to play, win and lose as a team.

Their bodies are growing at an amazing rate and their character is being shaped for the future. Why, oh why, would I let my child fill their bellies with energy drinks and junk food, or take direction from a coach who wants to win at any cost? What kinds of things are we telling ourselves in order to justify letting our kids participating in this kind of behavior?

What are we saying to our own children when we let them be abused by someone just because they are called "coach" and tell them to just shake it off? Think about that.  What kind of values do you think they will develop then?

Now, don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with a donut now and then before a game or a coach who loses it now and then.  After all, coaches are only human. I am talking about this kind of behavior being the norm at every practice and every game.

Role of sports parents

  • It is a parent's responsibility to make sure that their children are being put into a setting that builds honor and respect (both ways),  and that they themselves teach their children honor and respect, both to give and to receive, even if they come with the bumps and bruises along the way. Trust me; it will make a difference in their future!
  • It is a parent's responsibility to make sure that their children are getting proper nutrition while playing competitive sports. Trust me: it will make a difference in their future!
  • It is a parent's responsibility who they choose to entrust to lead their children.

My advice for parents is to look to the future and ask yourselves, "Is being part of a winning team really winning, if our children's character is being destroyed for the future?"

What parents can do

Here are some things you can do if you find yourself in a situation where the coach's win-at-all costs attitude, abusive behavior or values are not consistent with the values you believe should be taught your children:

  1. Talk to the coach face-to-face. Sometimes they are just not aware of their abrasiveness.
  2. If the problem remains unresolved, go above the coach's head to the leadership of the league you are in and explain your concerns.
  3. If things don't seem to get resolved, move on to another league. Believe it or not there are plenty of options out there.
  4. Teach your kids how and what to eat by practicing proper nutrition at home.

I hope that this has encouraged you to take responsibility for your kids and for yourselves. Guess how I learned them? The school of hard knocks.

Shari Lynne Dominick is a stay-at-home mom and grandmother in Lake Stevens, Washington. She writes the blog faithfilledfoodformoms.

Posted September 18, 2011