Prospect Communication's Youth Sports Blog - "Taking You Beyond the Game!", features our own articles and commentaries that deal specifically with youth sports. Browse the site to read any articles that may be of interest to your sports organization. The articles are copyrighted to the authors (Michael Langlois & Mary-Louise Langlois) and they may not be reproduced without permission. To inquire about licensing the right to reproduce any of the site's content please contact us at inquiries@prospectcommunications.com

Prospect has a unique and specialized approach to communications skills and issues management geared towards those involved with youth and minor sports. Michael and Mary-Louise's work in this area is ideal for parents and coaches who want to make the most of children's involvement in sports.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

College runner shows us the meaning of sportsmanship

It’s easy to find—and we sometimes write about them here—examples of poor sportsmanship, as demonstrated at times by professional athletes.  But it’s much more heartwarming to focus on times when individuals in sport really capture the essence of sportsmanship, showing that you can be an elite athlete/competitor and still handle situations with grace.

One such individual has captured attention in recent days—a long-distance runner named Meghan Vogel, a student-athlete from a Division III school in the United States.  After seeing a fellow runner fall in front of her, rather than run by and “get ahead” in the race, Meghan stopped, helped her fellow competitor up, and proceeded to assist the fallen runner to the finish line.

The story is well-detailed at ESPN.

This brings to mind a situation from a few years ago, also in women’s collegiate sports in the United States, when a player hit a home run, but fell rounding first base and suffered a serious knee injury.  She couldn’t get up, but a rival player went over, picked up her opponent, and carried her around the rest of the bases to ensure the player would receive credit for her home run.

We don’t see (or at least hear about) these kinds of acts of selflessness often enough, but when we do, we should highlight and celebrate them.  Because every once in a while, in a very competitive world, individuals sometimes stand above the crowd and show that sports—and life— is, in the end, about much more than winning and losing.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Referee abuse in youth sports out of control

Recent media coverage of instances of abuse of officials in youth sports demonstrates that too much emphasis is being placed on “winning”.

Sports are inherently competitive, yes.  It is natural to compete—in life and certainly in sports.  That applies to youngsters and adults alike.

But the over-emphasis on “winning” at the early ages in sports leads all too often to the kind of over-the-top behavior that simply can’t be justified—and should not be tolerated, either from parents or the young athletes themselves.

One such situation occurred recently in Alabama, where, if you can imagine,  a grandfather went after the umpire after a girls softball game. (Click to read more.)  The grandfather was eventually charged and faces up to ten years in prison.

We also cite a recent article in the Winnipeg Sun by columnist Paul Friesen.  Friesen writes about how youth hockey is losing countless young officials because of the abuse they receive at the hands of parents—and players. It’s a  very discouraging story.

Some will suggest these are simply isolated instances of poor conduct that do not reflect a greater problem.  In fact, it is a serious problem.  These two incidents happen to have been reported by the media.  The truth is that inexcusable behavior rears its head commonly in hockey rinks, on baseball diamonds and on soccer pitches and basketball courts on a regular basis wherever youth sports are played.  And the issue quite rightly raises the argument that there is simply too much emphasis placed on “winning” games at young ages in sport.

Young people have to learn to “win” and “lose” at some appropriate point in their life, without question.  But is it really necessary at the ages of 8, 9 and 10, for example?  There is plenty of time to learn to compete properly, to handle “winning and losing” and to shoot for “victory” when winning can and should be part of the competitive equation.

Parents often set a horrible example in this regard for their children.  They yell and scream at game officials any time a call goes “against” their son or daughter’s team.  Where does this lead?  Too often, it leads to youngsters mimicking their parents’ awful behavior.  The young players disrespect adult officials, or try to intimidate young officials who are simply trying to do their “job” to the best of their ability.

We are all tempted (and have likely set a poor example somewhere along the way ourselves) to be upset at a referee's decision, for example.  But we need to check our behaviour and not allow ourselves to act in a way that reflects badly on us- and on the values we should be trying to uphold and example for our children.

All parents love their kids and enjoy cheering for them at a sporting event.  But this can be done positively—without constantly blaming officials if things don’t go our way.  Sadly, emotion often overwhelms the moment and unfortunately, some parents become so over-invested in the sporting activities of their children that their behavior is an ongoing embarrassment.

It’s a sad commentary when young soccer and hockey referees leave the sport because they don’t feel safe and protected, as a result of the unacceptable behavior of adults as well as the behaviour of young athletes who are often simply—and sadly—reflecting what they witness themselves.