Opening Day Hopes and Dreams

Fenway ParkThe Boston Red Sox Home opener is today! This is a big deal for die-hard Red Sox fans. Its truly akin to a National holiday. In fact, it’s even talked about in school – at all levels.

As our home team boys embark upon their new season, many of our kids are embarking upon their new sports seasons, too. As the weather is warming and teams are organizing, this is the perfect time to remind our kids – and ourselves – of one very important and basic fact: regardless of the sport, or the level an athlete is playing at, at the beginning and end of that game, it is still…a game. Someone will win. Someone will lose.

What amazes me is that the pros and elite athletes seem to roll with the punches of the ups and downs of the games better than those in youth sports. For our young players, sometimes their ages, their youth, prevents them from always dealing well with the many ups and downs of the games. Thats where adults come in. Coaches and parents have to be the voices of reason and help young players get the basics and win and lose with dignity and grace. We need to help them look to their older role models in school and in the pros for leadership for how to do just that. And, we have to be leaders ourselves in composure and grace. Parents and coaches gone awry in sports doesn’t help our kids learn anything. Headlines like this one from years ago and this one from recently tell me we are not making headway in improving the situation on the sidelines. We must do better.

And, we must insist our coaches do better at all levels. The firing of Rutgers coach Mike Rice is a wake-up call that we have to have a zero tolerance for abuse at all levels of play for all sports and help our players understand how to talk about these issues and how to get help when needed.

So, as we begin a new sports season for all athletes, let’s put sportsmanship, good mentoring and above-reproach coaching on the top of our lists. Let’s Sports Parent Code of Conduct seriously and reinforce it throughout all our teams and leagues:

On September 23, 2000, more than thirty heads of Massachusetts’ chapters of national sports and medical associations, educational organizations, and professional associations met at Children’s Hospital in Boston to participate in a consensus meeting to develop a sport parent code of conduct for the state. The meeting was convened by the Massachusetts Governor’s Committee on Physical Fitness and Sports and the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, Inc.

The essential elements of character-building and ethics in sports are embodied in the concept of sportsmanship and six core principles: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and good citizenship. The highest potential of sports is achieved when competition reflects these “six pillars of character.” 1

I therefore agree:

1. I will not force my child to participate in sports.
2. I will remember that children participate to have fun and that the game is for youth, not adults.
3. I will inform the coach of any physical disability or ailment that may affect the safety of my child or the safety of others.
4. I will learn the rules of the game and the policies of the league.
5. I (and my guests) will be a positive role model for my child and encourage sportsmanship by showing respect and courtesy, and by demonstrating positive support for all players, coaches, officials and spectators at every game, practice or other sporting event. 10
6. I (and my guests) will not engage in any kind of unsportsmanlike conduct with any official, coach, player, or parent such as booing and taunting; refusing to shake hands; or using profane language or gestures.
7. I will not encourage any behaviors or practices that would endanger the health and well being of the athletes.
8. I will teach my child to play by the rules and to resolve conflicts without resorting to hostility or violence.
9. I will demand that my child treat other players, coaches, officials and spectators with respect regardless of race, creed, color, sex or ability.
10. I will teach my child that doing one’s best is more important than winning, so that my child will never feel defeated by the outcome of a game or his/her performance.
11. I will praise my child for competing fairly and trying hard, and make my child feel like a winner every time.
12. I will never ridicule or yell at my child or other participant for making a mistake or losing a competition.
13. I will emphasize skill development and practices and how they benefit my child over winning. I will also deemphasize games and competition in the lower age groups.
14. I will promote the emotional and physical well-being of the athletes ahead of any personal desire I may have for my child to win.
15. I will respect the officials and their authority during games and will never question, discuss, or confront coaches at the game field, and will take time to speak with coaches at an agreed upon time and place.
16. I will demand a sports environment for my child that is free from drugs, tobacco, and alcohol and I will refrain from their use at all sports events.
17. I will refrain from coaching my child or other players during games and practices, unless I am one of the official coaches of the team.

I also agree that if I fail to abide by the aforementioned rules and guidelines, I will be subject to disciplinary action that could include, but is not limited to the following:

  • Verbal warning by official, head coach, and/or head of league organization
  • Written warning
  • Parental game suspension with written documentation of incident kept on file by organizations involved
  • Game forfeit through the official or coach
  • Parental season suspension

Parent/Guardian Signature_____________________________________________________________


Finally, let’s not lose sight of the most important part of the game: helping our kids feel like champions. Win or lose, we can easily accomplish this by finding something our kids have done during each game they should be proud of (“wow, when did you learn to throw like that??!!”, “I had no idea you could hit a tennis ball like that!”) The more our kids feel like winners, the more they will act like winners, on and off the field. 


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