Sportsmanship – Are We Failing Our Children?


As parents, we are supposed to teach our children the spirit of sportsmanship in competition.  But, what we are actually passing along to the next generation? In 2014, a father was charged with beating another dad to death in an argument over a youth hockey game.

A teen hockey player from Illinois pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for giving a rival player a paralyzing injury. 

Like father, like son? Perhaps. Sports officials say violence amongst adults at youth events appears to be affecting the kids.

Good sportsmanship seems to be falling out of fashion, youth officials have noted, as overly aggressive adults prowl the sidelines and stands, berating officials and coaches, and shouting exhortations to the players. A statement is being made to young athletes that aggressive behaviour is okay.  

In a society where winning is highly lauded and athletes are worshipped, many agree that the atmosphere at youth sporting events can be extreme. This aching desire to win can be seen among even the youngest of participants.

It has become clear [frighteningly so in some cases] that parents want to win.  They want to feel that physiological rush that comes with the ‘Thrill of Victory’.  Research conducted on a group of male subjects, found that winning (even for spectators) provides a testosterone surge while losing actually lowers hormone levels.  As parents we identify with our kids – their successes quickly become ours.  Even at the earliest stages of our child’s athletic career, we envision the possibilities: a better team, starting spot, varsity experience, college scholarship, perhaps even the pros. 

Athletics are supposed to impart teamwork, sacrifice, comradery, and most importantly – sportsmanship.  What are you teaching your child?