Diana Storey: We’ve all seen poor sportsmanship

Published 12:05 am Sunday, April 24, 2016

By Diana Storey

Special to the Salisbury Post

Sportsmanship is defined as ethical, appropriate, polite and fair behavior while participating in a game or athletic event.

I cringed when I read Wednesday’s letter to the editor — really a letter to all of us in the county — from a parent visiting one of our local sporting events (“Fan’s abusive behavior sets bad example for children”). We’ve all seen it, and we can all relate — but it’s not an issue unique to Rowan sports. Unfortunately, this behavior sometimes is a bit more passive aggressive, and is pursued through social media, leaving a permanent negative mark.

Parents, coaches, trainers, referees, it does not matter. When working with youth athletes, our job is to teach and model good sportsmanship and good behavior. What we say and what we do is directly reflected back to us in the behaviors of the players on the field and on the bench.

Enacting bad behavior and bad sportsmanship as a parent, coach, or trainer enables and encourages young athletes to do the same. If we are not held to a higher behavioral standard, then how can we hold our youth athletes to a higher standard?

The vast majority of parents support their children in athletic endeavors with good cheer and sincere expressions of sportsmanship. Many of us even cheer when we see great athleticism exhibited by the opposing team. Great shot, nice pass — it’s not just a cheer we express for our own athletes. Most parents also realize that their kids don’t have to be stars to learn something about hard work, teamwork and commitment, which is really what youth sports is all about.

But it only takes one bad apple to spoil the whole batch. We’d like to jettison these parents, but it really wouldn’t be fair to their kids, who we’d like to keep cheering and supporting, because we like them a lot more than their parents.

The parents, coaches, athletic directors, etc., involved in my kids’ team support and cheer for every team throughout the county. We are blessed with wonderful athletic programs at all of our schools, and with a local newspaper sports staff that does a fabulous job covering their amazing performances every day of the week.

So before you blow up at a game, yell at a ref, go on social media and criticize a proud coach supporting his team on his personal Facebook page, post nasty comments on the Post’s website criticizing All County selections and calling out the names of kids on other teams in the process, or favorite the post of one of your kids’ teammates that tries to bait another county school’s team member on Twitter to respond — take a look in the mirror and evaluate your behavior. Are you demonstrating the true definition of sportsmanship? What are you teaching your kids?

It’s playoff time. Go Hornets, Cavaliers, Falcons, Cougars, Raiders and Mustangs! We’re rooting for all of you! We can’t wait to celebrate your continued accomplishments collectively as citizens of Rowan — not just as fans of our own school teams. All of you dedicated young athletes make us proud.

Diana Storey lives in Salisbury.