40 thoughts on “The Nicest Sports Story You’ll Read Today

  1. Before I even clicked on the link I was like “shed a tear… yeah right” …… yeah… I shed a few tears.. What a great example of how adults could learn from the younger generation!!

    Thanks for sharing John.

  2. I think what this team did in forfeiting the game was indeed a wonderful thing. Obviously, their coach has his head on straight. However, I am very wary of these feel good stories.

    Call me a scrooge but, as (gasp!) a sportswriter, I resent the underlying implications that come with these pieces. Those being that competition is unhealthy.

    There is a sentiment that has crept into organized sports, that the most important thing is that the kids have fun. Enjoyment is important, especially to the kids. Children do learn more when they are engaged in the topic.

    Unfortunately, this philosophy has evolved to the point where competition and adversity are anathema. These elements of sport are important to experience as a child. It is better to learn to lose (and win) in an artificial environment.

    Then, as an adult, when the world throws you a curveball like, oh say, the bottom dropping out of the housing market, banks needing to be propped up by the government, you suddenly being told by your employer that your services are no longer required and finding yourself 4 months behind on your mortgage, basically a really nasty bender, you might have enough confidence in yourself to keep fighting and not spend all your time making flags for the next Tea party.

    Yes, there are countless examples of overenthusiastic coaches and parents with no sense of perspective or sportsmanship. That is not the fault of competition, though. It’s the fault of poor teaching. The solution is not to eliminate competition from children’s activities. Instead, we need to teach poor sports of all ages that competition is a tool to teach children about life.

    I have taken my nephew to his little league soccer matches. His coach makes sure everyone plays and that is a good thing. What he doesn’t do is make sure all the kids are paying attention to what they are doing. The kids on the bench often wander off and occasionally so do some of the players on the pitch. For him, that’s fine as long as they have fun with each other.

    I suspect that this de-emphasis of competition might have roots in the lack of father figures in many homes these days. Mothers instinctually tend to be overprotective. It’s unnatural for many mothers to allow their children to experience even minor pain or disappointment.

    People need to remember that it’s called organized sport for a reason. Along with fun and sportsmanship, there needs to be an element of discipline, focus and purpose imbued into the players. Sport can serve to teach a broad spectrum of life skills, not to simply occupy kids until they’re adults. We need to restore the proper balance of fun, learning and competition to scholastic and municipal sports activities.

  3. There was nothing in this piece at all that suggested competition was bad.

    Nothing.

    The (gasp) sportswriter seems to be mistaking the developmental need to focus on enjoyment and developing a love for the game during early years (like, for instance, the first time you ever play) with the equally healthy need for firm competition once love for the game has been established.

    Mr. Sportswriter would seem to want 6-year-olds to suck it up and lose 100-0. That doesn’t make you ready for the future, it just destroys your enjoyment of today, and damages the odds that you’ll stick with the sport long enough to get good, develop good habits, and become a stronger person.

    Give kids a couple years to learn to love a sport, then start making them stronger players, then, for most around high school, you can start to really hammer home the lessons about sticking with it through thick and thin, being strong, determined, etc…. Doing this too early actually damages development.

    This IS the proper balance of fun and competition. Your piece has an underlying current that it’s not OK to have fun unless there is stiff competition and somebody wins and somebody loses.

    Clearly our (gasp) sportswriter friend is a better writer than me. IN part through inclination and talent, and in part through study. I suggest he go and study developmental psychology, sport psychology, educational psychology and motor development for a few years. Heck, one course in each should be sufficient. Perhaps you’ll put away your soapbox and let the slow kid take a turn at the plate. He’ll never develop into a slugger otherwise.

  4. Martin: How could there be competition between a team that hadn’t lost in 2.5 years and a team that had never played a game?

    The players and coaches managed to change what would have been a crushing defeat into what appears to be a highly positive experience for everyone involved.

  5. Thanks for that post John. It is a great and refreshing change from the last sportsmanship article I happened to read, the fiasco of the South Pasadena, Calif. vs. Monrovia High track meet of a couple weeks ago.

    Nice to see some people haven’t forgotten what sportsmanship means and that not everyone lets the “drive to win” overcome a chance to do something right.

  6. Wow, it sure is dusty in this basement! ;)

    The last softball story I heard was the one where the coach let his team slaughter the other team 64-0.

    I’m glad to see these players really understand sportsmanship means playing a fair game against an opponent of similar skill, and not just winning.

  7. Must fight urge to shed a tear. Will power fading, fading, gone.

    Must now tolerate taunts from heartless wife.

  8. You know, there are just some people who can’t stand seeing happiness without running over and anxiously trying to crap a lecture on it. Yes, martin, I’m looking at you.

    Totally not teary at the article. I am a heartless litigator! Yes! If you’ll excuse me I need a hanky. Um, for my allergies.

  9. Nice to read about kids and coaches doing the compassionate thing. Yeah, it’s great to be competitive & win, it’s another to obliterate an opponent who doesn’t stand a chance against you, thereby demoralizing the confidence of kids trying something new, trying to grow.

    Good character is also an element that should be built into a team and cleary these girls, and their coaches, have that in spades.

    It’s character such as this that is missing in so many professional athletes and parents standing on the sidelines of little league/school teams all over.

    A little more of this type of character should be encouraged by everyone.

    Now excuse me while I go repair my mascara.

  10. Can’t help but notice that it was girls that did this. As opposed to, say, guys. That might be what makes the difference. Yeah, a sense of competition is important, but it’s not the only important thing.

  11. M.A., I’ve seen some pretty winning-is-the-only-thing girljocks and genuinely sportsmanlike guys, so I don’t think that’s all there is to it.

  12. Not to pile on martin — his point is valid, to a point. But I don’t think what he’s talking about is what was happening in the article. There was nothing in it whatsoever claiming competition is unhealthy, but it did suggest that lopsided competition is nothing to be celebrated.

    Needless to say, I thought each side in the softball story showed a lot of class and the true meaning of sportsmanship…

  13. I resent the underlying implications that come with these pieces. Those being that competition is unhealthy.

    That “underlying implication” is something you brought to the party.

  14. Martin — There was no competition available, so they made future competitors. What more or better could they do?

  15. Good story, as is the one Lektu @ 28 posted (thanks for that – it saved me going looking for it).

  16. Actually, for me the big story isn’t just that they forfeited, it’s the followup of mentoring the other team and getting them some equipment to work with. Forfeiting is just a gesture. Mentoring and donations are a commitment to fair competition.

  17. Yeah, I was sobbing until I read the [gasp] a sportswriter’s take on things. That dried up my tears faster than the end of Joe Thiesmann’s career.

    First, just an observation: those who can, play. Those who can’t play, write about it.

    I’m willing to bet my bronzed kangaroo cleats that [gasp] a sportswriter has never played in a game that mattered. He’s never gone days without sleep replaying the points that might have won the match. Never sat and sobbed in the shower after losing a championship in overtime. Never struck out in the ninth with two outs and the winning run on third.

    At the same time, I’m sure he’s never known the ecstasy of beating impossible odds. Ending the five year streak of a much better team. Coming from behind and making the last second winning shot from half court. Sinking a 40-foot put to win. Being down two games, love-forty in the fifth set and taking it all in a tiebreaker. Or hitting a grand slam against a pitcher who already struck you out twice.

    Then, perhaps, [gasp] a sportswriter would understand why it’s important to first teach little kids that it’s only a game. And games, at their best, should always be about fun. When you’ve seen both sides, the agony of a crushing defeat and the thrill of an impossible victory, you don’t want kids to start out thinking that winning is the only thing. Because finding the will to win has always been a far better lesson to learn in the long run. In life, as well as sports.

    As for his sexist, uniformed comment that the “de-emphasis of competition might have roots in the lack of father figures in many homes today” I’m sure LeBron James and a good portion of the NBA would take exception to that.

  18. Wonderful.
    I passed it on to the Rec Council and Grils’ Softball Commissioner here. (I’m on the council board.)

    We sometimes forget this is what it’s all about – teaching kids how to deal with adversity, competition and life in general.

    Thank you for bringing it to my attention, yendi and John.

  19. For those who didn’t read the first paragraph of my comment, go back and read it.

    I am not criticizing the players who forfeited. I am criticiizing people like Mrs. L. Yes, I have played, both weinning and losinng games that were very important to me. I know what it feels like to win when you never expected to and to completely tank when you thought there was no way you could lose. That is the whole point. Children need to learn those feelings when it is just a game. Then, when the same things happen in real life, you have the emotional strenghth to deal with it. When you take the (relative) importance of winning and losing out of children’s sports, you are doing them a disservice.

    As for my ‘sexist’ remark, perhaps my feelings come from having a very overprotective mother and no father myself.

  20. BTW, Joel,

    I coach a tyke hockey team and have been doing so for several years. I’m Canadian but live in the southern US. The kids are 5-6 years old and rarely has even one of them ever skated before their first practice. The first thing they find out is that they love to fall down. For the initial one or two practices, that is all they want to do. We let them. Soon enough, they get bored with it and learn how to stay on their feet. Then they want to play.

    Never at that age is it about winning or losing. It is about learning to be part of the group, though. So, we patiently remind them to pay attention to the game, when it is not their shift, to be ready to go and to cheer on their teammates.

    When they move up to the next level, they actually have an inkling of what they are doing and are having more fun for it. It doesn’t take a couple of years for a kid to learn to love a sport, regardless of which course you have taken. It takes just a few practices or pick up games. They quickly know, regardless of their athleticism whether they want to be playing or not.

    Nor do I feel that an environment of “stiff” competition needs to be created. The results I am looking for aren’t wins and losses. Competitive spirit is simply giving your best effort for your team, learning something new each time you come out and not giving up no matter how far you’re behind. Sportsmanship is not rubbing it in the other team’s face by taunting them or running up the score. The result that satisfies me is that when I ask my nephew if he did his best, his smile is just as bright when he describes how he whiffed and fell on his butt as it is when he raves about scoring the winning goal.

    When John Scalzi gets political on here, he often bemoans the polarization of the Republicans and Democrats. I guess I’m trying to describe something similar here. So no, I don’t think it should be all about competition. I do think that the pendulum has swung from too much emphasis on competition to too little, however. Rather than swing all the way back, though, I would like to see that pendulum settle in the middle.

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