(BPT) – As fall arrives and kids return to school, both parents and young athletes will also be preparing for a busy schedule of youth sports. At such a time, it’s worth revisiting a touching story from a youth hockey game last year that gained attention on social media. In this particular game, when three-year-old Arabella fell on the ice and struggled to get up, a player from the other team skated away from the action and instead of going after the puck, extended her hand and helped little Arabella up. It’s a simple story and a simple act, but it embodies what youth sports are supposed to be all about – a life lesson grasped even at age three.
Unfortunately, such examples are not as common as we would like them to be. Far too often we see coaches yelling at officials, parents confronting coaches, players disrespecting opponents, verbal slander and an attitude that puts winning above sportsmanship.
Although “teamwork” and “sportsmanship” were ranked as the two most important aspects of participating in youth sports, according to a 2014 survey of 2,000 coaches and parents of youth athletes conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance, 50 percent of parents and coaches believe that sportsmanship has worsened since they were growing up. In fact, one in four parents have seen a verbally abusive coach, and more than half of all coaches have witnessed parents yelling at their own kids or at officials.
These results indicate that too often, parents and coaches have adopted a mentality that winning is more important than learning the core values of teamwork and sportsmanship. This has prompted a number of businesses, community leaders and organizations to work with coaches and parents across the country to promote camaraderie and goodwill among teammates and competitors alike.
“We believe youth sports play a vital role in the health and vibrancy of our communities,” says Anthony Storm, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Liberty Mutual Insurance, whose Play Positive initiative was established to “promote the important life lessons that coaches and parents can impart on children through sport.”
And, to help celebrate the positive spirit of teamwork and sportsmanship, Liberty Mutual has designated September as “Sportsmanship Month” to spread the message of its Play Positive initiative.
This fall, a simple commitment to playing the game the right way can help youth sports organizations earn much needed funds to support their team. By taking Liberty Mutual’s Play Positive Pledge to promote good sportsmanship now until October 15 at PlayPositive.com/Pledge, local youth sports teams or organization could be one of 10 teams to earn a $ 2,500 grant from Liberty Mutual. That money could help pay for new uniforms, field upgrades, participation scholarships, or anything that would help make the youth sports experience more positive for our children.
The hope is that through initiatives such as Liberty Mutual’s Play Positive Pledge, coaches and parents will foster good sportsmanship as the most important victory for the current generation of youth athletes.