I have fretted over this blog for the past couple of days. I knew I needed to write it, but I had to be sure that my words would be edifying instead of accusatory.
I attended my grandson's football game on Friday evening. I am not talking about college or high school football; no, I am talking about 5-and 6-year-old football. I don't even know what they call it; pee-wee league maybe? What I do know is that I am very impressed with how far those little guys have come since the first days of practice when they were more concerned with picking dandelions and being able to hold their heads up under the weight of the helmets then who had the ball and making a tackle. The little men on the field Friday night were focused and having fun, taking direction from their coaches and showing great examples of good sportsmanship.
This leads me to the point of this blog post. I am all about cheering on your favorite team and especially encouraging your son, daughter, grandson or granddaughter in whatever sport they choose to participate in. I was quite the "football mom" myself when my sons played ball. However, what I experienced at this game on Friday night, I found appalling. While these 5-and 6-year-olds were reaching out a hand to help up a player from the other team, the spectators on the sideline were exhibiting anything but good sportsmanship.
On more than one occasion, I witnessed an adult from the other team come to the sideline of the opposing team to "taunt" the spectators and parents of that team. I heard an adult encourage these children to fight another child; to take their legs out and to hurt them. Not that it is right to encourage this kind of behavior at any point, but these are 5-year-olds, people! The adults in these children's lives are charged with the awesome responsibility to raise them up to be kind and respectful young men and, yes, that includes good sportsmanship. Encouraging your child to be the best that they can be at whatever they do is vitally important, but it is equally important for them to realize that how they conduct themselves in obtaining a goal is a stamp on their character. I had to wonder what kind of example these adults were exhibiting for these young kids.
I, in no way, am a perfect parent and have made my share of child rearing mistakes, but I can say that there is a fine line between cheering on a child and encouraging them to inflict harm, either by words or actions. As I continued to watch these enthusiastic little guys play the game the best they could, I was totally impressed with the way they handled themselves. They encouraged each other (even the opposing players); they helped each other up and cheered for both sides of the ball. That's good sportsmanship and I could only hope that the adults on the sideline would take a page from their playbook and learn a valuable lesson. I certainly did!
We teach our children to walk, to talk, to ride a bike and to play football, but character is learned by the examples they have to follow. If you want a child to have a vulgar mouth, use vulgar language around them; if you want a child to be aggressive and mean, then be mean and aggressive around them. However, if you want a child to be respectful, show respect; if you want a child to be humble, show humility; and if you want a child to be of good character, exhibit good character. We are writing on the playbook of their lives every day!
I would like to take one more moment to thank all of the coaches who work so hard with these little men. The patience and encouragement that they show toward these kids is truly inspirational and I, for one, appreciate it.
Until next time...Go team!