Sportsmanship for Parents-Officials
Parents, we need to practice good sportsmanship. Let's discuss what this means. The definition includes the fair behavior towards others. As a parent, you are likely to experience moments when this comes easy. When all the plays are called fairly and your child's team is winning it's easy to practice good sportsmanship.
When the game is contentious or evenly matched you may find it challenging to view the officials from an unbiased perspective. Why? Because you love your child and want the world to revolve around him/her. Unfortunately the world doesn't work that way. Occasionally this basic desire for the world to celebrate our child as we do leads us to treat the officials poorly. I once observed a parent berate an umpire so badly that other parents on the same team moved away from him and ultimately told him to shut up. Before he stopped his tirade, the umpire argued back and offered to let the father come call the rest of the game. The thing was...this was a RECREATIONAL 9/10 year old softball game. Not highly competitive, nothing riding on this game, it wasn't even a close game. The umpire was very experienced and according to others, did not deserve this treatment. The father's unsportsmanlike behavior embarrassed his daughter, his wife and other parents. All because he wanted his child to be allowed to be called safe when she clearly was not. He was vocal about blaming the umpire for the lack of a score.
Parents, let's be honest about what this accomplishes. If you tell your athlete he/she would have won if the officials were better, your athlete hears "it doesn't matter how you play, you're not responsible for the outcome." This impacts the amount of effort athletes place on working hard to get better. Why would they work hard when it doesn't matter? Not to mention, the game needs officials. Too many officials are quitting due to the immense pressure from parents. Why would you want to volunteer for that job when you'll just get yelled at and told how blind you must be??? We're lucky we can get officials to do this job at all!
While we may not agree with all the calls, unless we are ready to take over the responsibility we are better off helping our athletes learn how to keep their head in the game for the next play. One of the challenges I encounter as a mental performance consultant deals with an athlete being able to mentally transition from a play call he/she didn't agree with to the next play. Often times it stays with the athlete and they perform poorly for a few plays until they can focus their attention in the moment.
As parents we are in a great position to model the behavior our athletes should have. We can admit when a call appears bad. We can express that disappointment. But we can make the choice not to yell, scream, and verbally demean the official in the process. We can instead choose to encourage our athlete to shift his/her focus to the next opportunity. This is the best bet for helping our athletes be successful.