I have 3 boys and they are wild and funny and free. And I’ve allowed them to be!
We play a lot of sport. Rugby League, AFL, touch footy, cricket and whatever else they ask for. I will never say no to sport! Afterall, that’s what I need to do with my boys – keep them active, keep them moving… I don’t want them inside playing computers and punching each other. I want them outside, playing and joining in. I want them to be a part of a team.
Last week our school won a spot in the grand final for AFL (named the Paul Kelly Cup). It’s a really big deal in Wagga. It means the school goes through to the grand final being played tonight at a high school event under lights. Can you imagine how excited the kids are? Under lights? In a grand final? They are even being mentioned on TV and the radio! They are pumped!
But, on the eve of the grand final the kids were given a ‘dressing down’ by teachers and their excitement was squashed… 5 days AFTER their win last week the kids were told their “behaviour on the field in a game last week was disgraceful“. They were told they didn’t need to high 5 and clap each other on the back after every goal, they weren’t at the MCG and it was embarrassing they got so pumped up. Huh?
Yes, that’s just how you squash a child’s spirit. I was dumbfounded! The round robin event last week was based on for and against ie. they had to win by certain margins to put them through to the next level. And so the children did. They kept winning and winning… I know in one particular game the opposing children were not very gentlemanly and were using some bad language and coming in late on tackles which did make our boys fired up – but certainly not in a questionable manner! They were even more determined to win by a huge margin to put themselves ahead. It was motivation.
When did school sport become so soft? Why would they be told they showed “bad sportsmanship” for winning and being excited and cheering and clapping and yelling?
I have had a conversation with a lot of the parents at that game and not one parent believes our children did anything wrong.
I was not the greatest at sport when I was at school. I was always in the 2nd’s or 3rd’s for netball. I was never in the top team. But it never worried me. I was good at other things. I could swim good. I was good at debating and public speaking. But no one ever squashed my spirit. I was taught to be competitive, but fair. I was taught to always do my best and be happy for others. My Mum and Dad came to every event, and they always wanted me to try my best.
I will not tell my children to tone down their competitiveness. I will tell them to go for gold. I tell them NEVER to swear, but always play fair. Never play dirty. BUT always do your best. That’s just what team sport is all about. Encourage your mates, support them and get amongst it. Follow the lead of your coach and listen to their instructions. School yard comradery is so important.
Winning isn’t everything. I know that. I’m not silly about it, afterall he is only 12. I would be angry if he was a bad sport. But he’s not, and never will be. He’ll just solider on to the next game with the same positive attitude. He played 11 games of football last week (over 6 days) and he didn’t win them all! Heck, I was even THE biggest loser on a reality tv show and I was never a bad sport about it. I’m still positive and moving forward.
Why are we getting so soft with school sport? Why can’t the kids play to the best of their ability? Why are we not even scoring anymore for little kids?? Why can’t we teach kids how to be resilient when they lose? Why can’t we celebrate their wins?
Until my boys tell me they don’t want to play sport anymore I will continue to be involved and supportive. I will kiss their faces when they win, I will rub their sore muscles, I will be positive and encouraging when they lose. I will never be disappointed in them.
I’ve told my son to go out there tonight and play as hard as he can. Play your absolute best. Cheer on your mates. Talk to them on the field and support each other. Listen to your coach and your captain. Go for it!
Win or lose, we don’t care, just don’t ever squash a child’s spirit…
UPDATE: And they WON!
Disclaimer: This is an opinion piece on my personal blog and I do not represent anyone else.