Last night’s Choose Civility Symposium, The Ball’s in Your Court: Can Civility and Sports Co-Exist was a fascinating discussion exploring teamwork, leadership, role models, sportsmanship, and competition. There was an amazing panel of individuals moderated by NPR’s All Things Considered, Morning Edition‘s Korva Coleman. Panel members included former NFL star (and Baltimore Colt) Joe Ehrmann, sports psychology expert Amanda Visek, Mt. Hebron High School Athletics and Activities Manager Jeannie Prevosto, and Winston DeLattiboudere III, a student athlete from Howard High School.

The combination of having a coach, athlete, administrator and sports psychologist really gave balance to the conversation and allowed congruence of vital messages to come forward that hopefully were good take aways for those who attended and those who watch the live stream.

Recent infractions like those that have occurred within the NFL to those happening in community locker rooms across the country are just more intolerable examples of why we don’t have a choice but to find a way for sports and civility to co-exist.  No wait, better put, we must find a way for sports and humanity to co-exist.

During the panel, Joe Ehrmann spoke about the need for competition to be redefined. He said we as a culture have become too focused on the concept of winning at all costs. If we are focusing on winning at all costs, then it is impossible to build strong character in our athletes at the same time. This ties in closely to the recent study by Harvard University’s Making Caring Common project, where they discovered that the majority of students they interviewed felt as though their parents were more concerned in their success and individual happiness than they worry about the fate or happiness of others.

Competition indeed does need to be redefined. And in doing so, as Ehrmann suggests, sports programs should be defined by a mutual quest for excellence, not an “I win, you lose” mentality. Basically think of the skills you need to collaborate, organize, coordinate and function in your tasks as an adult at work. Sports programs can be basic training for how you interact later in life. Hazing, being in it for yourself, lacking empathy for others – these are not skills that build character, develop a sense of teamwork or set you up for success later in life.

Coaches also need to to define themselves. They can either be transactional or transformational. Transactional coaches are in it for themselves. Its about their glory. The give and get. Transformational coaches have an empathic connection to those they coach. A true belief in empowerment. You’re either meeting the needs of your players or your using them to meet your own needs, Ehrmann said. Who would you rather have as a coach? Who would you rather be a role model for your child? Be an advocate for your kids, shoot, even for yourself.

Which brings us to parents and the role we play. Parents can be very enthusiastic, caring and supportive, however at times in the heat of the moment our behavior can cross the line. Kids have said that parents are sometimes too loud in the stands, or make obscene calls out to the umpire or coaches that can be embarrassing. Take some time to practice standing up to behaviors that are inappropriate and unsportsmanlike. Check yourself and think about how what your doing and saying is being received. Then hold your fellow bleacher seat mates accountable for it too.

So…The Ball’s in Our Court. What Now?

We’ve heard from experts with advice on how our coaches, athletes and families can redefine their roles, develop positive relationships and hold each other accountable for our actions. We’ve heard how athletes can communicate better and have more sportsmanlike behavior with their teammates and other athletes. And we’ve heard from a sports psychologist about what the 3 top “Fun Factors”, or motivators, for kids playing sports are: being a good sport, trying hard and positive coaching.

These themes seem to be true for so many of life’s activities and experiences. Be nice, play nice, be positive, do your best. It’s so simple. How did we get from there to here? Where do we go now?

ICYMI: Last night’s symposium is available to watch via YouTube.


More Upcoming Events on Sports by Choose Civility:

Conflict Resolutions on the Sidelines 2/3 7pm Miller

 Emotional Intelligence in Sports 2/10 7pm Miller

Good Sports: the Athletes Bill of Rights and Your Family, 4/29 7pm Miller

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