This weekend provided me with many opportunities to experience all sorts of sportsmanship ~ from good to bad to down right awful.
Our first game smacked me right in the face with issues of bad, bordering on awful, sportsmanship. Lucas' team, the Warriors, is a local rec league team. There are several kids on his team who are trying lacrosse for the first time. They are learning the sport and learning to love playing. The Warriors' first game was against a team who traveled from North Carolina to participate in the tournament. This team is a year round travel team and they were pitted against our little team. During warm ups our guys looked like the Bad News Bears, standing around gawking at their competition. I walked across the field to deliver Lucas' water bottle and a few of the boys whispered to me "We're gonna get crushed...they have MATCHING undershirts." They did have matching undershirts and they practiced like a well oiled machine.
The game whistle blew sounding the beginning of competition. In the opening minutes of the game the opponents ran down the field, passed, passed, passed the ball and scored....repeating many, many, many times. Their players were good. They knew what to do and where to be. But by the time the score was 10-0 in favor of the opponents I think it would be time for the coach to tell the kids to throttle back a bit. I would think the parents would have the sense to reel in their enthusiasm just a tad. The parents and players kept reacting as if every goal was the first goal or the go-ahead goal. To me, good sportsmanship requires a little throttling back both from the parents and players when the goal differential is that huge. This was not only my thought but Zach's as well. He sat watching the slaughter with me and he remarked that it was unsportsmanlike for the parents and players to be cheering so wildly. His hockey team has been on both sides of the spectrum. His team has been up 7-0 and been down 7-0. When they are up by a wide margin our parents and players make a concerted effort to tone down the cheering. Cheering wildly when a teams knows they are far out playing the competition serves no purpose, in my mind. The game was mercifully ended by the refs at 14-0. There was no mercy from the opposition. (This organization went on to play many other teams at different age groups, usually walloping their competition soundly. There were reports of 17-0 win and a 60something-1 win...not necessary and definitely not good sportsmanship.)
Part of the fun of kids sports for me is watching the crazies ~ the parents who firmly believe their child is the stud, the star, the one who makes it all happen. These are the parents who stir the pot with their pacing back and forth on sidelines and their mindless rantings ~ eliciting eye rolls from other parents or even other kids. To these parents I just want to say "WHOA! Chill out!" Zach and I sat watching the last of Lucas' games and the parents behind us kept us smiling for the duration of the game. One dad was pacing and pacing and pacing, mumbling under his breath and screaming frequently ~ usually when he was standing directly behind us. (He reminded me of my blog "Peter's Mom" from months ago.) He looked a little deranged, I have to say. This dad's actions provided comedic relief for Zach and me. When he would get close, Zach would glance at me out of the corner of his eye and a little smirk would pass between us. I rarely get to sit on the sidelines with Zach and watch a sport with him. I am usually watching him play. It was interesting and more than a tad fun to see his perspective on crazy parents.
I love good sportsmanship. I absolutely love it. In this tournament Zach's team ended up playing a team which was coached by a good friend of ours, Tim, who is a huge part of our hockey life. He and I traded texts before the game began, ribbing each other just enough to keep things sporting. During half time he shot me a quick text with emoticon sticking its tongue out at me ~ they had a one point lead. It was just enough ribbing to be a bit of a brat but it was not mean spirited or ugly. After the game ended, with a two point loss for us, Tim came over to our team's sidelines. He gave me a hug, gave Zach a pat on the back for a game well played and shook hands with the parents of the other players. Good sportsmanship.
The kids learn a lot from sportsmanship, the good, the bad and the down right awful. I am glad to see my kids trending toward the good aspect of sportsmanship and shying away from the bad aspects. I hope they hold onto these lessons and carry them forward into their adult lives.
Oh, for the love of my children...