March 7, 2012
Recent incidents in the news have me thinking about sportsmanship.
Liverpool striker Luis Suárez, accused of racism, refusing to shake Manchester defender Patrice Evra’s hand. Chelsea Captain John Terry facing criminal charges for racial abuse. NBA phenomenon Jeremy Lin suffering racial slurs from major sports media.
Yes, these are all examples of the most extreme unsportsman-like behavior. But how we talk about these incidents with our youth players is extremely important. As coaches and role models, we need to use these situations as teaching opportunities. Youth players are influenced in so many ways, both positive and negative, but a consistent voice making sense of it all is vital. As coaches, we must establish values in our everyday lives, demanding respect and fair play in all that we do.
It appears that fierce competition and financial pressures at all levels of sport have pushed sportsmanship aside. Do we turn a blind eye to talented players behaving badly? Has respect fallen victim to the longstanding hatred some players and fans nurture for the opposition? This is not something we should teach our youth. And even if bad behavior sells, the media has a responsibility to up-and-coming young fans to portray a more positive view of sports.