We hope most youth league coaches understand the importance of teaching good sportsmanship. In Little League, AYSO Soccer, travel baseball or travel soccer, lacrosse...any youth athletic endeavor...learning to be a good sport and to play fair might be the most important lesson a coach can teach.
But what does that mean? Many coaches believe that sportsmanship means shaking hands with the opponent after a game. But isn't there much more to it? Coaches who "bend" the rules of substitutions, playing time or positions are sending a clear message to their players that it is OK to cheat if it gives you an advantage over the other team. How about baseball coaches who steal signs? Or teams that allow their players to yell loudly in an attempt to distract the opponent. Or what about a coach who tries to "get inside the head" of a young player on the other team.
Yes it is fine to try to win, (within reason) and we all want to have our players taught fundamentals. But along with those responsibilities let's not shirk our primary duty of making young athletes good citizens who will be fair and just to others when they go out into the "real" world.
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