As the Olympics is in full gear and our amazing teams are doing well, we might consider the challenges these athletes face on a day-to-day basis. We know they should encounter trials like new skills, competing against a team that provokes their very best, and of course balancing school along with long practices hours–but these challenges are expected. Some adversities, like cruelty, are not expected, BUT IT HAPPENS! What would you think if your daughter overheard someone whispering about her skin tone, or that your son is simply the first loser because he was second? Perhaps your child has even encountered bullying or maybe their religion is being ridiculed. I am sure the list goes on, but I hope you get the point.
Here’s 5 ideas to promote kindness in sports—It’s not saying you should let the other team win. It is saying, however, we should treat each other with respect.
- Set the Example: Your kids observe your behavior and will model how you react and treat other people. I say this because many years ago a parent on my daughter’s former team overheard another parent describe her child as an animal. I remember what she said, but honestly, I do not have the heart to say. The cruel comment stemmed from her daughter performing extremely well at a gymnastics meet–scoring a 9.9 on floor, almost perfect! So careful how we respond when our children do not do as well as expected. When we insult others, our children will grow to also insult others. We have to first and foremost be a good example.
- Be Inclusive: Families are different and that’s okay! We might come from all parts of the world, differ in religious beliefs, and model different customs–and this is wonderful! It is a great opportunity for our children to learn people are different–we don’t have to be the same. In fact, some will argue that it is these types of differences that can make a team stronger! If we are more open to others, it can only help our children be better role models in the future.
- Be Welcoming: Every now and then a new team member is introduced to the group; teach your kids to welcome that new person. My daughter has faced this very issue and it is a difficult transition, specifically when you move to a new state and even the way coaches are addressed is different! In the South, it was Mrs. Michelle; however, out West its first name basis. The kids giggled at her because of this and she was slightly upset they did. So it doesn’t hurt for them to introduce and welcome that new team member; it’s okay if they’re different.
- Be Responsible: If your child should offend another child, why not use the opportunity for them to amend the situation? Talk to them about what occurred and how they might apologize. Doing this will certainly increase the team’s dynamics and help them focus on the goal. Kids should learn they are responsible for their role on the team; thus, the focus becomes on themselves versus their teammate. They can control the effort they bring to their sport.
- Encourage Camaraderie: Sometimes working towards the goal of winning needs a break. It’s important to boost team camaraderie and what better way to do this then celebrate as a team! At some point, whether it’s a team banquet, after practice pizza party, or whatever some savvy team parents can coordinate–do allow your child to participate in these activities. Sometimes connecting with one’s teammates is just the downtime needed to promote team bonding, which can ultimately boost kindness within the team! It never hurts to learn about your teammates outside of practice.
The truth is I was saddened to hear of comments concerning Simone Biles by Carlotta Ferlito:”…next time we should also paint our skin black so then we can win, too.” While these comments were made three years ago, it reminded me of my daughter’s old teammate and the comment her mother endured. They were little then, elementary school. I just felt compelled to remind us, parents, that kindness can never hurt, but ugliness can.
Do you have your own experiences or ideas you would like to share concerning kids and kindness? I would love to hear about them if you’re open to share. We can begin the mending of issues like this when we openly speak about them and recognize there is an issue. So don’t be shy; do share! 🙂
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Featured image was taken by my father.