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Kids and Sportsmanship: Part 1

Kids and Sportsmanship: Part 1

Article by Clive Scarff, sharing part one of his two-part series on kids, sports and sportsmanship.

You know how certain images from your childhood are emblazoned into your memory, while at the same time you might not remember what you had for lunch two days ago? For me, one such emblazoned memory was of a CFL football game, when a player knocked another player from the opposing team down. Nothing new there. What shocked me was to see, after the whistle had blown, the tackler extend his hand to his opponent and help him to his feet. What? Helping someone from the other team up? It seemed just plain wrong. And yet, it was impressive and I never forgot it. That memory was an example of something I came to know as ‘sportsmanship’.

Paying Attention to Sportsmanship

Sportsmanship is an integral part of sport that I fear does not get its proper attention. It makes sports better fun but more importantly, it instills character in children that will not only make them more valuable members of any team, but will benefit them into theiradult lives, their working careers, and long after they hang up any pair of skates or cleats.

Another vivid childhood memory of mine, again sportsmanship related, is of an NHL Stanley Cup final game. The Philadelphia Flyers were playing (or as my seven year old likes to say, ‘versing’) the Boston Bruins. It was 1974, and the great Bernie Parent was in net ‘for the Flyers. A Bruin had a breakaway, shot the puck at Parent, and then was tripped ‘from behind. Parent had to move to his left to stop the puck, but then, noticing the unhelmeted Bruin was sliding headfirst toward the iron goal post, Parent quickly darted to his right and extended his leg in front of the post so the Bruin crashed into the goalie’s padding and not the post. Talk about good Parenting. Impressive and memorable – that a professional athlete would sacrifice his position to save an opponent from injury.

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Good sportsmanship should not be so remarkable, but it does tend to be exceptional, in the literal sense of the word.

As professional sport evolves and becomes bigger business, with its athletes being paid in the tens of millions of dollars in some instances, we are seeing a visible shift in kids’ sport as well. My seven year old played his first season of hockey this year. When I was his age I played, and absolutely loved, hockey. We had one half-hour practice one evening a week, one 45-minute game on Saturday, and one 45-minute all-star game on Sunday. In my son’s rookie campaign, however, his team averaged three hours of ice-time a week, one hour of which was with a team of highly skilled professional coaches. His team had two dedicated “dad coaches”, two safety trainers, and a manager. I am not sure why there was not a publicist.

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What is Sportsmanship?

Soccer teams have similarly advanced programs, the major difference being the parents get rained on more. Figure skaters are no longer coached; they are trained, and compete under intense pressure. I can go on ad nauseum speaking of other sports, but I don’t need to, do I? But what I do feel compelled to go on about is the need to put an emphasis back on sportsmanship. And with that, comes the obvious question: what is sportsmanship in practice? I will answer in the next installment.

Clive Scarff runs the Mini-Me Sports Academy for pre-schoolers, and is a freelance writer. He lives in North Vancouver with his two boys. He can be reached at [email protected] or through the Facebook page

*Photo credit: Veronica Brown,

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