December 1, 2009
Behavioral Patterns Lead to Poor Sportmanship by Tom Kuyper
Why just kid the soccer ball when you can kick your opponent as well? How far do coaches allow their kids to go before their temper and actions dictate that they are "out of there"? I just watched the YouTube video of the Mountain West girls' semifinals soccer match between New Mexico State and Brigham Young University. It seemed like a normal soccer game until BYU scored the game's first goal. That triggered the fury of New Mexico State's Elizabeth Lambert. She went on what appeared to be a spoiled rotten rampage. Miss Lambert hit, slugged, kicked, tripped and even yanked an opponent to the ground by her ponytail.
What goes on in the playing career of a young athlete that leads to this kind of behavior? I don't like to make judgments or assumptions, but there are some things that can usually be concluded from this type of scenario. I will step out on the limb and say that this has probably been a common behavioral pattern for many years, starting from her early youth soccer years. Maybe not to the extreme as in the BYU-New Mexico game, but something that has been exhibited in some way for many years. What went on in her early sports experiences that exploded during this game?
Youth coaches are needed to teach life skills, more than focusing on winning and results.
I have seen many youth coaches who lack the courage to pull a talented athlete from the field for poor sportsmanship or a bad attitude. They keep them out there because they want to win the game, or because they fear the backlash from the player or the parents. This just allows these young athletes to learn that they are indispensable to the team, and therefore, they learn that they can do what ever they want regardless of who gets hurt.
Often very talented young athletes have tempers that flare, because they have this competitive nature. When they aren't taught how to direct this competitive fire into just playing their heart out, and accepting the losses and frustrations with grace and dignity, they miss out on the very best they can be. It's very sad. I understand the consequences of this game now preclude her from continuing in competitive soccer. Maybe if she had just left out the ponytail-pulling part? It's the same thing that we do as parents: We use hard situations to teach and prepare our kids for things coming up later on in their lives. It is never easy to discipline or give out the consequences, but it is always for their benefit.
Be courageous youth coaches. It's not easy, but somehow, we need to look past the immediate reaction and the hardship any consequence would put on the team to the long term benefit and learning for everyone. Luckily, the score ended up with a 1-0 win for BYU, as I hate to think of Lambert's reaction if there was a second goal!
Check back next week for another great article about Youth Soccer Coaching.