Monday, September 21, 2009

Sportsmanship at an all-time low - or maybe not

It's Professor YouthSportsParents. This fall, I'm teaching a graduate seminar on youth sports and society at McDaniel College outside Baltimore. Tonight's topic: parents, coaches and sportsmanship.

We'll speak with Washington Post reporter Annie Gowen, who wrote this interesting piece about a group of Maryland soccer moms and dads banished from the sidelines for conduct unbecoming a grownup in corduroy slacks - or some like infraction. What I found particularly fascinating was the league's take-no-prisoners attitude about the adults' behavior. In essence, do the crime, serve the time.

Students have been doing their own research, looking into local leagues and associations, speaking with officials, evaluating codes of conduct. They'll share what they've learned about differing approaches to the sportsmanship question.

One issue I'll be raising: Is sideline etiquette at youth sports games truly in decline? The pat - and perhaps even accurate - answer is, of course. This survey underscores the point. The Awards and Recognition Association asked people whether sportsmanship is worse now than when they were growing up. Sixty-three percent said yes. Among folks 60 and older, 81 per cent thought sportsmanship had suffered since their kid sports playing days.

Still, that's hardly conclusive. Could it be that we simply hear more about rude, overbearing sports parents than we did in years past, thanks to CNN, ESPN and niche blogs like this one? That while our behavior at youth sports games can be rude, even loutish, we were just as rude and loutish in the old days? I don't know. And, more important, I doubt anyone truly does.

1 comment:

N.M. LaVoi said...

Great topic! Data on this topic is not longitudinal so we really don't know if sideline parental behavior or sportsmanship of athletes is getting worse. Because we do often hear about egregious behavior on various media outlets, I think the perception is that is getting worse...but this is more anecdotal than empirical. -nml