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What Ever Happened to Humility in Sports?


What happened to humility in sports? When did pride in athletic accomplishment tip the scales to no longer Honor The Game? Recent examples of a lack of humility have made the sports headlines:
  • Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo's verbal swipe at opposing Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas saying he could have stopped the winning goal that Thomas missed.
  • What happened to winning with grace?
    • The Dallas Mavericks' DeShawn Stevenson publically saying that LeBron James had "checked out" of the end of Game 4.
  • Since when do athletes criticize the level of effort of an opponent?

Don't misunderstand us: having pride in yourself as an athlete and your accomplishments is an extremely important part of what sports delivers. But not at the expense of our opponents and the game itself. This month we explore: how do you have pride and still Honor The Game?

Thanks to the experts at Positive Coaching Alliance, we know that an essential part of upholding the values of a Responsible Sports environment within youth sports is about Honoring The Game. Respecting the Rules, Officials, Opponents, Teammates and Self. (Using the ROOTS acronym helps to remember the five principles.)

None of us like to lose, but learning how to handle wins with humility and losses with dignity are great lessons that youth sports can teach our kids. So how can you help inject some humility and good sportsmanship into your child�s youth sports experience?

1. Admit your own mistakes. We all know that kids mimic the adults in their lives. At an early age you learn this lesson when a slip of the tongue is repeated by your toddler. But just because the mimicking
isn�t as obvious in older years doesn�t mean it�s not happening. Kids who see their parents admit mistakes and demonstrate the ability to move forward will more likely adopt the same approach themselves.

2. Provide much-needed perspective. "It's only a game." Easy to say when you are in the stands and not the one who suffered the loss (although it's not easy for all parents). But your perspective on the relative importance of the moment is critical to helping your child view the game in proper perspective. Help them reframe losses so that they do not dwell on what went wrong, but begin looking at what they can learn, work on and improve.

3. Redefine winning and losing. Start with redefining winning not as the scoreboard, but as their ability to give 100% effort, learn as much as possible and move forward from mistakes. Redefine losing too; losing is not defined by the scoreboard results but by letting yourself and teammates through sub-par effort, by not learning from the experience so that you can improve in the future and by any violation of ROOTS.

4. Celebrate wins and losses. You might be saying all the right things, but your nonverbal communication might be sending the opposite message. Are you cheering from the stands both when things are going well and when they are not? Are you heading out for ice cream after the game only when your son wins? Do you brag on Facebook only when your daughter's team has won? Find a way to "celebrate" the accomplishments of your son or daughter regardless of the result on the scoreboard. Ice cream for mastering a new technique and successfully using it in a game. Facebook posts with a video clip of outstanding defense. And consistent encouragement from the stands letting them know you believe in them.

5. Honor. don't degrade, the opponent. You wouldn't have a game were it not for the other side. And as an athlete, you don't have a chance to rise to your best without strong competition. There is no better way to reinforce this message with your child than to practice the same principle. Avoid making negative comments about the opposing coach or "calling out" an athlete from another team in your game debrief. And, even in an effort to bolster your child, don't say that she would have saved the shot that the opposing goalie missed.

As we bemoan the degradation of humility in professional sports, we have only to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask whether or not we are teaching our kids, the future adult athletes - to show that humility. One of our jobs as Responsible Sports Parents and Responsible Coaches who teach our kids life lessons through youth sports is to help them develop the ability to win and lose with dignity and to respect the game at all times, regardless of the outcome.