Today I spent the morning watching my nephews play each other in their league football championship. It was not a good game, one team was vastly better than the other. The degree of improvement from their last matchup seemed to have thrown off the other team. At the half, my nephews met in the middle of the field and patted each other on the shoulder before they made their way back to their respective teams. As the very one-sided game continued to roll on the spotlight started to shift. The focus moved away from the boys on the field and became the adults. Angry shouts from the stands when things were not being called their way, the complaints about coaching calls they did not agree with and attacks on other peoples children that they (the parents) thought were not doing a good enough job supporting their teammates. Forget about rules, forget about the fact that coaching and even more so officiating is hard and unless you are winning, a thankless job, they were upset and wanted to make sure everyone knew. I became increasingly annoyed by the commentary among the “fans” it was not one-sided, parents from both teams were complaining even the team winning by a large margin if a call did not go their way.
I sat there in that crowd and could not help but think about not just the kids on the field but those supporting their siblings in the stands. What they were hearing, what they were seeing. Adults that were not enjoying a game because it was not going their way and making sure everyone around them knew about it.
I grew up with parents (my Dad was also my coach) that pushed for sportsmanship. My mom walks out of events when the parents are “embarrassing themselves” in her words. I have a dad who will correct the behaviour of his players loud enough that their parents (the even larger offenders) will hear it and take the not remotely subtle hint. To my parents and now to me, sports was and always has been about, family, fun and being the best people we can be. My dad has won many awards as a coach and is very well respected in his field but every year the award he wanted the most was the most sportsmanlike team because that reflected who we are as people not just players. That showed the work we were doing not just on the field but off it.
I don’t write this to put myself on a pedestal, I have not always been the best example of sportsmanship but I see more than ever the need to make sure I am teaching by example.
Do we want the children that see us to value respect for others or to have a win at all costs attitude? Do we want our students to perform and win with humility or lose and blame everyone else for the perceived injustice? Do we want to have two cousins on separate teams congratulating each other on a great first half or parents screaming about a rule they don’t even understand?
We are Teaching by Example.
This afternoon we went to volleyball (teacher life and we love it) and behind us sat another group of parents. We were shocked as words came from their mouths that we were not prepared for. They were cheering on the efforts of the rival team. Whenever a pass or hit was missed, a return or serve did not quite clear the net, they were encouraging, they praised their effort, by name or number they celebrated the efforts of another team. Julie turned to thank them because it was such a refreshing moment in comparison to the morning and the lady responded, “What are we teaching the kids when we act the opposite?” Amen.
I am excited to get back into coaching, I am a football coach that has been asked to help coach Basketball. It will be an adventure because I can’t teach them basketball but I can teach them this, I can help them to be kind, to be supportive, to help another player up and to celebrate our successes and learn from our missteps. We will not look to blame others but we will learn because of them.
As teachers and parents, our jobs are to help the young people in our care be awesome. It is time we all start teaching by example.
Thanks for listening to my Ted Talk.