Last year one person was killed after a dispute at a high school hockey game.

High school boys let their hormones take over? Nope. The two men involved in the fight were parents of the boys. Unsportsman-like conduct is running rampant through youth sports. But the offending conduct is often at the hands of the parents.

I remember cheering on my sister at her high school basketball games and a long-time neighborhood parent began shouting at the referee. Loudly. I was embarrassed that I knew him, embarrassed for his kid and mortified that he would act that way in public.

Shouting at the referee is one thing. It can get you kicked out of the game if it becomes belligerent, but it is often just fighting words. Parents are going as far as teaching their kids to use violence during the sport.

A young 4th grader was playing basketball. She was athletic and quite good for her age, which meant if she could dribble and shoot, she was well above her peers. She consistently stole the ball, much to the chagrin of the opposing team. A father of a girl on the opposing team took his daughter aside during half time and said “If you want her to stop stealing the ball, elbow her in the face. That will make her stop.” The father of the talented player was sitting just in front and heard the entire thing. A war of words began and the referee had to intervene. The parents of the talented player are friends of mine.

What kind of world are we coming to that parents are teaching their children to use violence in sports to advance? High schoolers have minds of their own, but why would this father encourage his fourth grade daughter to elbow someone in the face?

As parents continue to get overly involved in sports, it becomes evident that something has to change. What is devastating is when a father and his son’s hockey coach became so heated in an argument that it became violent and one man was killed. Was that high school sport worth a death?

Children learn everything from their parents and their surroundings. So naturally, if mom and dad have a hard time being sportsmanlike, the child will have problems with treating other players well.

As a parent, you can teach your child to play nice. Start from an early age to treat competitive games with skill but to always maintain the fun factor. By allowing games to be focused on the fun aspect, it will take the pressure out of needing to win every time. The next step is to teach your child to be a good winner and a good loser. A good winner does not gloat or tease about his or her superiority. And a good loser is one is accepts that the other player played the game better and does not blame outside causes.

True sportsmanlike conduct begins at home and it starts with you.

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