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Mindful : October 2013
Who do you think is better at sportsmanship: kids or their parents? Tough call. We’ve all heard the stories— and maybe witnessed a few appalling incidents our- selves—of bad sportsmanship in the stands that overshad- ows what’s happening on the field. Now in Kansas City, they’re getting preventive about it. The Blue Valley Rec- reation league mandates that all parents of participating children—as well as coaches and game officials—take a free sportsmanship class. “The culture of sport is changing,” says Lori Thomas from Champion of Charac- ter, a nationwide program of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. “Parents are becoming more involved, sometimes with very high stress levels. With this program, we’re trying to instill values that build character, and also provide education and training so that everyone knows and does the right thing—on and off the field.” Thomas has found that the goals parents have are often very different from their child’s. So while moms and dads are hoping the young shortstop or basketball player in the family gets a college scholarship, the kids just want to have fun. For them it’s about liking the game and hanging out with their teammates. In Thomas’s presentation, she asks the parents questions like why do you want your son or daughter to play? What do you think their goals are? What is their role on the team? What do you think a good season looks like? Then she instructs parents to put the same questions to their kids—and listen closely to their answers. “Because if the goals are different, I say you only have one choice, par- ents: You have to drop yours and accept theirs. “What we’re trying to do is get parents to release the kids to the sport.” Steve Baysinger, Blue Valley Rec’s executive director, has seen how effective the classes are. He credits the Champions of Character program with helping parents understand what’s really important to their children. He recalls one athlete whose parents attended his games all through high school. “After each game, his dad would come up to him and say, ‘Jim, I just love watching you play,’” says Baysinger. “A nd I’m thinking, man, if every parent could get that, it would make sports so much better for a lot of kids.” ● Keeping Sports Fun for Kids now 18 mindful October 2013 PHOTOGRAPHCOURTESYOFCHAMPIONSOFCHARACTER