Sports parents, your children learn from you

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 31, 2004

This Saturday, local youth opens another season of baseball.

We would like to take this opportunity to remind the parents to be careful of their behavior in the bleachers.

Let’s face it. Children often learn what sportsmanship is about from their parents, and parents who are poor sports, are setting a bad example for their children, not to mention the embarrassment factor the child must carry with them throughout the game.

Children go into the season thinking games are games and by playing, they are improving their skills, confidence, building their self-esteem and above all having fun.

Then something happens. A few un-parentlike adults lose their cool at the players, who are trying to learn to play better and everything coaches have tried to build is for naught. Often, it is the parents who turn the American past time into a tension filled pressure cooker where winning is everything and losing gracefully is totally unacceptable.

As parents, we have to be aware that our behaviors often set the tone for our children's attitudes toward youth sports. As adults, we often tend to focus on the &uot;end product&uot;, rather than the &uot;process.&uot; When an adult arrives at game’s end, and sees the players coming off the field, what is the first word out of their mouth? It’s usually, &uot;Who won?&uot; or &uot;Did you get any hits?&uot;

Immediately these become major mistakes rather than life learning experiences.

Children often leave the field seeing themselves as failures. Where is the fun in that?

Research has shown that elite athletes focus on tasks, not trophies. That is, they focus on the process of their skill development, measuring their progress in terms of frequency, duration, or intensity. They have an intense desire to win, but most of their energy is spent competing against themselves. Success in their eyes is measured by progress, not in the won-loss column.

As parents, if we’re looking to develop a positive attitude in our children, we would do well to watch our own behaviors at athletic events. Do we give positive encouragement, or critical, judgmental remarks? Do we show a calm demeanor, or do we get heated over things that we would be wise to let pass in the spirit of good sportsmanship? Do we praise participation, or game statistics?

So this season, when you are out at the game in the beautiful weather and you feel the urge to yell about a mistake, close your mouth and think about what you’re saying.

Just remember your attitude is showing, and your children are listening.

While we agree that many of life's lessons can be learned on the baseball diamond, don't forget that a major component of youth baseball, or any youth sport, is having fun so please don't forget that.