Have you ever attended a youth sporting event and been upset because of the negative behavior of the players, parents or coaches? At the Marion County Commission on Youth, Inc., we have heard these stories and have seen these behaviors ourselves, which prompted us to take a look at the value of sportsmanship in youth athletic programs.
Mike Sipe, an adjunct faculty member at the University of Indianapolis, said “I think I learned to win with dignity as well as lose with that same dignity. I love sports and the values I have learned from my participation in high school, college and semi-pro activities. I do not feel I would be where I am today without sports and lessons that were learned.”
Sipe, who has more than 37 years of experience as a teacher, athletic director, principal and personnel director in public schools, has coached Amateur Athletic Union basketball and baseball teams and served as an Indiana High School Athletic Association licensed official for baseball and track.
According to Sipe, young athletes need to learn about “self-discipline, teamwork, sportsmanship, character, integrity, [and] work ethic.”
“I think that you can give small learning lessons,” said Sipe. “Stop the action of a game to emphasize a lesson. Praise an athlete for positive sportsmanship. Stop the game if there is bad sportsmanship and use it as a teaching lesson. We put too much emphasis on winning [and] losing in the younger ages, not teaching!”
Monica Bopp, the youth development coordinator for the National Institute for Fitness and Sport, works with youth and youth professionals as part of NIFS’ field trip program. Bopp agreed that “non-competitive play, teamwork, positive attitudes, [and] doing one’s personal best” can help young athletes in the long run.