By Paul Peavy
Well, it finally happened. Crazy, mad granny pushed a swim meet official into the pool for disqualifying her granddaughter because her granddaughter broke a rule. It looked a little like this…
While this was a classic funny scene in a “Beverly Hillbillies” episode, and the buzz around the pool was always followed with laughter, it is truly a sad story. It is sad for that little girl. It is a sad pronouncement of the state of youth sports.
It is amazing we tell our kids to follow the rules, respect authority, do what your teachers say but somehow arguing with an umpire, a referee, or an official is okay. If the point of sports is to be a microcosm of life that you can teach discipline, hard work, overcoming adversity, dealing with teammates, etc. Where does “abuse the authority figures that are in place to keep structure, organization and fairness” come in?
My first experience came with baseball. It was somehow OK, even cool, and, yes, a tradition for the manager to go out and get in an umpire’s face spray words mixed with saliva, kick dirt and even throw dirt on an umpire’s shoes. And the great result from these arguments was that the umpires never—I mean never—changed their minds. Then I noticed basketball coaches having a hissy fit on every…single…itty…bitty call. It must be right to teach their players that they never, ever do anything wrong and they are always a victim. Nope, it could not be that my ballplayer was lazy in handling the ball or just missed a jumper. It had to be the referee’s fault for blowing the call.
The interesting thing is that in swimming there is an appeal process. Your coach can go to the head official in a calm, organized manner and appeal the call. But it is not done in front of all the other swimmers, fans, parents and coaches. One of the things I have learned in conflict resolution training is to not leave the other person’s pride in tact and not let the problem become a matter of pride or stubbornness. Do not attack the other person’s dignity. You can bet the personal attack becomes the bigger issue rather than whether or not the swimmer touched the wall with two hands. I believe it was labeled as, “Do not let the other party let being upset about the upset become the most important thing.”
What you are teaching your child is that the way you handle conflict is that it is okay for you yell at the teacher and even push them if they don’t change their mind. You may think I am exaggerating but the picture in your child’s brain is burned in there permanently.
So, what to do about this kind of behavior at your event? I would have a mandatory meeting that coaches or an experienced parent is required to have at the beginning of the event. Here are the things I would point out:
- We are here to have a positive experience.
- Officials are humans, and humans make mistakes.
- Your child is a human and makes mistakes.
- Do not berate the officials. If you do you are being a terrible reflection on our team and what we stand for.
- There is a way to disagree or protest in a calm dignified manner. If you see the need for this please let the coach know and he or she will follow through with the procedure.
- Teach your kids that life is full of ups and downs, and sometimes is fair and sometimes it is not. For the most part, though, they will be given another chance to succeed somewhere down life’s path.
And if you disagree with me, please feel free to reply or email. But please I’d rather you not make a YouTube video and pronounce that I am a scumbag. (Actually, I’d probably be flattered if you took the time to do that, but you might regret that kind of publicity later.)
Paul Peavy is a Licensed Psychotherapist who has found a unique and energetic way to help people. As a former stand-up comic he knows one way to get people unstuck is to get them to lighten up, laugh, and live! In over ten years of dedication to getting people moving toward rediscovering the joy in life here are some of the highlights of America’s favorite Stand-up Therapist! Paul also competes in Ironman triathlons with his wife. firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.paulpeavy.com/