Write Team: For love of the game, refrain - the children are watching

The thrill of victory. The agony of defeat. The emotional rollercoaster of momentum shifts. The camaraderie of teammates.

Tactical and technical skills are developed. The knowledge shared by coaches and team members that transpire on and off the field. Lessons learned through winning and losing. But, most importantly, it’s fun, or it should be. Sports. Games that are valuable for more than the skill set on display.

As an educator and a parent, I have always been a huge supporter of sports. I never did and cannot condone, however, the outrageous behavior that transpires over a bad call or the heckling of the kids on the field by adults, no less.

I witnessed this when my children played sports, and it saddens me the cycle continues while my grandchildren are playing. It’s time to grow up and be the positive role models our children need.

Sports have endless benefits for physical, emotional and mental well-being. Physically, sports can develop lifetime healthy habits, such as heart health, increase muscular fitness and maintain a healthy weight. Emotionally, sports can decrease anxiety/stress, increase creativity, improve cognitive performance and improve emotional intelligence, especially when things aren’t moving in the right direction or when losing.

In addition, kids can develop the elements of a growth mindset by looking at failure as a form of learning and understanding that through effort, skills can improve. Mentally, with the exertion that coincides with playing sports, the body naturally releases feel-good chemicals, leading to better moods and increased focus/concentration. All of these traits transcend into life off the playing field. This was a significant reason I embraced sports for my students as an educator.

Finally, sports not only teach life skills but also act as a form of motivation for some to maintain good standing academically.

Feeling success lends itself to more success.

All those things are great reasons to participate in sports. So when do the problems begin? When adults overstep boundaries.

As a reminder, a human element is involved when umpiring/refereeing games. Also, these individuals either volunteer or get paid very little to take abuse from the stands. Coaches fall into the same category. I understand there could be a bad call or a coach who doesn’t have the player’s best interest in mind; however, that does not mean these individuals are screamed at or vice versa, which can escalate to more unruly behavior.

On the contrary, most coaches/umps/refs are giving up their time for the love and passion of the game.

Recently at my grandson’s baseball game, the opposing coaches continually screamed in the umpires’ faces about specific calls at the plate and on the field. The umpires took the verbal abuse multiple times and gave many warnings before finally ejecting two coaches from the game. Then, the parents from that team began their outbursts from the sidelines, including yelling at the other team’s fans. Here is the kicker- THESE ARE 10- YEAR- OLDS! Are we for real? I have seen this at even younger-aged games. Think of what is being taught to those kids by people who are supposed to be role models and adults?! This behavior teaches entitlement; if I don’t get my way, I’ll throw a tantrum, disrespecting other individuals involved, and the game being played. All these behaviors go beyond the field. They enter the classroom, workplace, etc.

I understand the emotional rollercoaster of sports, but we all should be modeling what good sportsmanship looks like. Life mirrors sport. A curve ball comes out of nowhere. We struggle to work with others or with a particular skill. We must learn that things aren’t always fair, but there are much less volatile ways to handle situations.

Sports should always be fun, especially for ages 5-12. However, the stakes rise if kids want to continue playing sports as they age. Skill sets become evident and set some apart from others.

Maybe some kids don’t show up for practices, put in the work, or show disrespectful behaviors.

Guess what? They probably won’t play-nor, should they-, or it’ll be minimal. Most coaches will give playing time to nonstarters if they are either winning by a considerable margin or have no chance of a victory. But, if a championship is on the line, the starters play. Again, all learning curves and challenging lessons to swallow for some.

I watched my children play in both low and high-stakes games. It is emotional because you want your child to do well, and you want the team to win. However, I would not yell at the opposing players to drop the ball or tell them they stink. Unfortunately, that did happen. What causes adults to act this way? Are they trying to live through their child, or do they think they are going pro at 10? I don’t have the answer. The percentage of that happening is 0.00075%!

A perfect example is my son set records in baseball at all levels and received many awards. He has multiple IESA records, high school records, and multiple records at the collegiate level-most notably breaking Kevin Kiermaier’s (a current MLB player) long-standing home run record in a single season. Along with all those records, he was on the draft board in 2017 and still didn’t get drafted. He loved baseball from the time he picked the bat up for the first time through the end of his career.

That joy and passion is what I hope all kids experience. He was fortunate to have had phenomenal coaches at every level, teammates, and families surrounding him. These people became like family-another positive effect of being a part of a team. As a parent, I am beyond thankful for all of them.

Please, let the kids play the game and enjoy every minute. If not, I can bet they will encounter burnout or lose their love of the game. There is no need to act a fool by arguing or coaching from the stands. Trust me; the kids know what they did well and what they need to improve upon. You are not only embarrassing yourself but your child too. Being at a sporting event should be enjoyable for all involved.

Adults, please model good behavior. For the love of the game-refrain unless you are a good sport in both victory and defeat. The children are watching.

Lee Ann Raikes is a resident of Ottawa, and now teaches at the Regional Safe School in Peru. She’s been teaching for 18 years.