Guest Post: Michelle of a Dish of Daily Life Reminds Us, It’s Only a Game


 

photo credit: DIRTYSKYWALKER via photopin cc
photo credit: DIRTYSKYWALKER via photopin cc

If I ever write a book about coaching, I’d like for one of my favorite bloggers ever, Michelle Nahom, to write a chapter. Or at least the forward.

Michelle, who writes the stellar blog A Dish of Daily Life, is a sports mom who gets it.

Whether it’s a discussion of safety on roads, a politically incorrect view on participatory trophies, or good sportsmanship, Michelle knows her way around the other sideline. I wish all my soccer parents could take a class from Michelle.

Today, she’s here with a simple theme – it’s only a game. Look, I want to win every match we play in. I have designs on Marie’s team winning a championship next Monday – on my birthday. We coach to win.

But we also have to acknowledge that winning isn’t only what’s done on Saturday mornings: It’s how we prepare our kids for life, by checking our tempers and keeping the game in perspective.

 

Please welcome Michelle, a consummate team player and remarkable writer.

photo credit: laffy4k via photopin cc
photo credit: laffy4k via photopin cc

I like for my kid’s teams to win as much as the next parent. But someone has to lose. And honestly, losing is not the end of the world. As someone very wise (our friend Eli) said not too long ago, “It’s only a game. It’s not life or death.” But when winning becomes more important than the game, when fair play goes out the window, we’re doing our kids a disservice. We’re sending the wrong message, and it gets harder and harder to undo the damage. soccer quote 11 13 We taught our kids to play nice in the sandbox when they were little.

Why does this same concept so often go out the window on the sports field? Over the years, I’ve seen plenty of bad sportsmanship on the field. When my oldest son was playing travel soccer, I heard a man yell at his son to “take that kid out.”

I wonder if he thought about the fact that “that kid” was someone else’s child?

A few years back, I saw a group of girls from an 11-year old girls team turn and flip off the crowd after a loss that eliminated them from the tournament. Last season I watched as a player on the opposing team hit my daughter twice in the back during a soccer game after my daughter shielded a ball going out of bounds, and then headed to the sidelines to do a throw in.

My daughter was stunned more than hurt, but that’s not the point.

The girl was given a red card and ejected from the game, but I heard from a parent on the opposing team weeks later that the coach spoke to the referee afterwards and convinced him to rescind the red card.

I don’t know if it was true or not (but the parent had no reason to lie to me…I would never have known).

If it was true though, it makes me sad more than anything. One, that player just learned she can get away with things…someone will “take care of it” it for her. Two, the next time, she might go a little further.

Personally, if it was my kid, I’d want her to take responsibility for her actions and live with the punishment.

Kids make mistakes. But if we use it as a teaching moment, they learn from them. The problem lies when we don’t use these moments to teach. If you’re a soccer fan, maybe you remember the 2009 Mountain West conference semifinal between New Mexico and Brigham Young.

In that game, New Mexico player Elizabeth Lambert took the term rough play to a new level, with a ponytail yank that looked like it was going to snap the other player’s neck off, among other things.

As I watched this video, I thought to myself, “why did her coach not pull her from the game?” Is winning so important that we’ll do anything to try to get an advantage? And why did the referee allow this kind of dangerous play on the field?

When you see this kind of violence on the field, chances are it started out on a much smaller level.

The athlete gets away with it…so they push the envelope a little more. What can we do? We, as parents, coaches, and referees, have the ability to stop poor sportsmanship in its tracks at the very beginning, before it escalates to a more serious level.

Coaches

Have a no-tolerance policy. Sub out players that you see behaving poorly on the field. Even if the kid is the best player on your team, you’re sending the wrong message when you allow it to continue.

Referees

Don’t let it escalate.

Parents

Don’t tolerate poor sportsmanship from your kids. And that means don’t model it by yelling at the coach, referees, players on the other team, or even your own kid! Don’t interfere and try to “fix” things for them.

Learning the hard way is often a wake up call. It really is that easy.

It’s not always about winning. Sometimes it’s just about teaching our kids how to be good people.

# # #

Michelle Nahom – Social media marketing, photo management specialist, lifestyle blogger. She loves sports photography, running and the outdoors. She’s a mom of 3 and her family includes 7 furry creatures as well. Follow her on Google Plus and Twitter.

Advertisements

125 Replies to “Guest Post: Michelle of a Dish of Daily Life Reminds Us, It’s Only a Game”

  1. All I could think about when I watched that video is “What a bitch!” I played soccer for years, and I think the only kind of player who does stuff like that is one who is frustrated and not playing as well as the players she is assaulting. Great post!

    1. I was really thrown for a loop when I first saw that video…I couldn’t fathom any player would behave like that. But the bottom line is, when players do things like that, they’ve probably been getting away with stuff for years and no one ever did anything about it. The refs, her coaches, her parents…every one of them should have been nipping this behavior in the bud. Poor sportsmanship does not belong on the field.

  2. What a wonderful post, Michelle! I truly find the behavior in the video absolutely disgusting. Now I am not really a big sports person, other than bowling, which I have been in and out of since childhood. In bowling there is really not a lot of physical contact, but poor sportsmanship is not at all uncommon…I had an older brother who would get so angry that he would kick the ball return, multiple times. In some ways, I am thankful that my kids have never really gotten into team sports, mainly because of the nastiness that can occur. More emphasis definitely needs to be put on the one important fact which is, “It is not whether you win or lose, it is all in how you play the game.” Thank you for sharing!

  3. Eli, you blew me away with your comments…I am truly honored. I am certainly far from perfect as a sports mom…but I do hate to see all the great life lessons lost simply because we put winning first.

  4. I’ve seen kid’s sports evolve into quite the opposite way since I played myself as a kid. And if there is a finger to be pointed mine goes directly to the adults. Not just the one’s at the game itself in play but those at other kids games, high school, college and then professionally. They learn from above from role models and it’s the adults job to institute that policy. Some of the atrocious behavior I’ve seen has been absolutely mind-boggling and I hope we can get on a different, positive track someday soon and head in that direction. Absolutely terrific post, Michelle! (thank you to you as well, Eli) 🙂

    1. I agree. The behavior starts at home and kids simply mimic what they learn from their parents and their coaches. Not too long ago I watched a soccer game where one of the coaches yelled “thank you” quite obnoxiously every time a foul was called against the other team and “let em play refs” every time a foul was called against their own team. And parents who yell for their kids to “hurt someone” or “take them out”…I just have no words.

  5. Yay, Michelle! Love seeing two of my favorite bloggers together. Talk about a winning combination! Michelle, you definitely brought your A-game today. Love this! My oldest will probably start youth soccer in the spring, and the most important takeaways I want her to learn from the game are good sportsmanship, winning & losing gracefully, and being a good teammate. Those lessons will take her farther in life than the number of goals scored or games won.

    Eli, thanks again for picking another winner! And good luck in the tournament! Hope all your birthday wishes come true!

    1. If your girl comes away with those three lessons, it’s better than an undefeated season.

      Not that undefeated seasons are bad – I hope my Muleicorns get to finish an unbeaten season with a league title on my birthday!

    2. Thanks for your kind words Nicole! I totally agree. I love it when my kids win as much as the next person, but not at the expense of civility. Those life lessons are so important…a sense of fair play and good sportsmanship will take our children far in life!

  6. Michelle, I read this post while nodding my head again and again. When my daughter went to cheer nationals last December, they lost points and ultimately did not place after their pyramid collapsed. Many of the girls – and the moms – blamed one of the cheerleaders for this mishap. In cheer, those pyramids are so intricate that you can’t pin point a mistake of that magnitude on one girl. Not only that, but the blame game caused very bad feelings and the girl who was left taking the fall felt devastated. Nothing good comes out of that. I’m with you that competition is healthy. Our kids will be competing their entire lives, for jobs, promotions, to get into the college of their choice, but the “must win” mentality is dangerous and it gives the wrong message about failure. We will all fail. It’s part of life and it’s not the end of the world. Neither is losing a soccer match.

    Eli – I think this post *is* the forward to your book on coaching. Well said, Michelle!

    1. That is horrible Ilene! I remember when my husband first started coaching, our goalie would be in tears because she let something in. My husband took her aside and told her that ball went through the midfield and the defense before it got to her. We win as a team and we lose as a team. I can’t even imagine how anyone could blame one person like that. Shame on those moms and those girls. I’m so sorry for that poor girl…it makes me sad to think of what she must have gone through.

  7. Great post, Michelle!! Just this past weekend at a middle school wrestling tournament, I watched a kid body slam his opponent and hit him with a shoulder in the stomach. (I don’t know the rules – it could have been a fair move.) The problem was it really hurt the other wrestler – the match had to be stopped for a couple of minutes. During that time the coach of the player who performed the move laughed at the injured player – laughed!!! I couldn’t believe it. Had that been my son’s coach we would have left right then!

  8. Is it the opposite of what this post is teaching to want to punch that soccer player in the face? OMG! If that were my daughter…
    I completely agree that lessons need to be learned. Some of the best in my life have come from losing and failing. Luckily, I’ve had great coaches and parents who steered me in the right direction.

    1. I have seen that video several times and every time I am in shock all over again. How that type of play was allowed to continue unchecked on the field, I’ll never understand. Of course I was stunned when the girl hit my daughter in the back as well. Her parents were arguing with the ref about the card. My daughter said to me, “if that had been me, you would have marched me out of there and I would have been done for the season.” That, I guess, is the difference.

  9. I finally got here after my long, hard day at the dentist and then at preschool pickup! Holy cow. That video. If I were there in person…I don’t know that I could handle it. May this post and anything you write on the subject go viral and widespread!

    1. You are the best Tamara! Thank you! It would have been hard to sit on the sideline and watch that! I just don’t understand why the ref let it go unchecked! They’re lucky no one was seriously injured in my opinion.

  10. Oh my gosh, that video made me sick to my stomach! That’s horrible sportsmanship all around: her for doing it and her coaches and teammates for putting up with it!
    At our last game of the season, my son’s soccer coach sidelined his own kid in the middle of the play because of something she did (I didn’t see it). Then at the next break he came and told her in no certain terms that “we do not play soccer like that EVER!” Did I mention these are six-year olds? Good job on that one dad. After she had calmed down, I got to witness the hug of forgiveness and her going back on the field with a much better attitude.

  11. You are absolutely right, Michelle. Coaches, referees and parents need to step up their game. We can’t complain about what we see in college and professional sports if we bring our kids up thinking they can get away with things like taking people down by their hair. I’m all for competitive, but there’s a fine line between competition and just plain bad sportsmanship.

    1. I’m with you! My kids are competitive and they want to win…but they’re not going to play dirty to get an advantage. I was at a 3 v 3 tournament in Disney with my daughter years ago and I take all the pictures so I often don’t “see” what happens until I look at the pictures later. In one particular game I had a picture of a player pinching one of our girls on the arm during the play…and I have the picture of our girl looking at her arm afterwards like she didn’t know what hit her. I asked her about it later, and the girl said “she pinched me!” I’d never heard of such a thing!

  12. I watched that video in horror, and showed my daughter too. Unbelievable. I’ve seen some poor sportsmanship, but that is way over the line. It’s hard to sit on the sidelines and watch your child get roughed up, but as a parent I trust that the refs and the coaches will penalize the players who are not playing fair. Play hard, but play fair. In sports and in life. I know that in reality that doesn’t always happen, but as long as my kids are in my home, that’s how we’re playing. Great post, Michelle!

  13. Wow! I was absolutely floored when I watched the video clip of the soccer game. My husband and I attend quite a few NASL soccer games, and I have NEVER seen actions like that before. I’m not sure what stuns me more, that she didn’t get some kind of card for the ponytail yank, or that the coach did absolutely nothing about it.

    You wrote a fantastic piece here, Michelle. I was nodding my head the whole entire time. I definitely hope more parents, coaches and referees take this advice and implement it.

    1. Eli’s right…most of the time coaches that do the right thing don’t get much in the way of press. I was excited to see the public support that the coach that benched his entire team for the actions of some of the kids received. I wrote a post on it not too long ago. I loved that the community and parents stood behind him!

      1. Unfortunately, I think some parents don’t think a coach is doing much if he’s not screaming and “disciplining” their kids. The encouragement and nurturing come with expectations of giving their best, which is best for the kid’s development – but if it isn’t delivered with fire and brimstone, they sometimes don’t recognize it.

  14. There was a time when an athlete’s code of conduct carried off the field and they were looked up to for the right reason. The worst thing about dirty athletes is that they are also dirty people. We are not a huge sports family but I was so impressed with the manners that M’s golf coach instilled upon the girls.

    1. My husband and I were talking about this tonight on the way to our son’s playoff game tonight…as soon as a kid starts talking back to the ref on the field, his coach pulls the player off. He doesn’t tolerate anything. The kids respect that.

      1. That’s a good coach, and a courageous one. It’s easier to pull the kid who makes a mistake on defense, but if a kid’s playing well and using her elbows for purposes other than what her maker intended, there’s the temptation to look the other way and leave her out there.

  15. I love the introduction you wrote for Michelle, Eli. All very true! And a great piece by Michelle. I really can’t speak to how hard it is to be a parent but from what I hear and see from my teacher friends, we have a lot of parents who are defensive about their children and struggle to hold them accountable. But isn’t a parent’s job to raise a healthy well adjusted child equipped to deal with adult life? Sports offer so many great teaching opportunities if parents use them correctly.

    1. Thanks Joy – she deserved a good intro! So glad to have her here.

      I love to see my players when they’re more grown up and they’re good kids or young adults … they learned from their coaches, but they also did a lot of that growing on their own.

    2. Thanks Joy! There is definitely a big difference between how our parents way back when saw things and the way our society does today. You’re absolutely right, we do blame teachers, coaches, other kids, etc for everything our kids do and we don’t hold the kids accountable. If I got in trouble in school, my parents wanted to know what I did…it would have taken a lot for them to back me over a teacher. Nowadays that’s rarely the case. It’s a sad state of affairs.

  16. I finally got a chance to comment:
    – What an amazing introduction. To read that honest, real, amazing into for my FRIEND! Wow. Nice job Eli. I know it’s all true but you said it really well.
    – is it bad that I called that girl exactly what Kathy did? That video makes me sick to my stomach, I hate it.

    Michelle, you and I very recently had a conversation about this so you know how I feel when a parent at a football game yells “kill him!” about my 10 year old son. It does start and end with the adults. If the adults don’t do it – the kids won’t learn it. If they don’t encourage it – the kids won’t want do it. If they don’t tolerate it – the kids will be better for it. Everyone needs to be held accountable – starting now.

    1. Thanks Steph – and I didn’t even get into what a role model she is as a blogger in terms of sharing others’ work and making you feel acknowledged.

      I wonder what this girl’s game is really like – is she just an enforcer who got caught up in the playoff atmosphere, or is she like this for every game? What’s she like on campus?

    2. I think what Eli said might have been one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. I was so honored…I can’t even tell you. Eli, you made my whole day! Steph, I know we just had that conversation…sadly, it’s not an uncommon thing to hear a parent yell and every time I hear it, I think to myself “that is someone else’s child!” We had a girl on my daughter’s team break her ankle in a game on a dirty play and their team was playing like that the whole time. I think I told you the coach told the girls not to dribble, but just to get rid of the ball because he didn’t want people to get hurt. What was the matter with the other coach that he just allowed his kids to play that way?

  17. Oh no she didn’t!!
    I was raised on hockey – if some girl had tried something like that pony yank on me…she’d find herself with her head between her knees and her jersey up over her head in a flash! Then 2 words: Hip Check. And I put my own father in the hospital during one particularly intense hockey game on the back pond.
    Growing up I cannot imagine my coach ever letting us away with a move like that. Heck, he would probably have dragged me to her house after to say sorry.
    great post with a great message.

    1. That’s the accountability I like – there’s a difference between pride in your school or loyalty to your side, and full-on assault on a human being.

      You’re like the Todd Bertuzzi of the blogging world, Rory. I want you on *my* team.

    2. I have watched that video so many times and each time I still can’t believe it! I don’t understand why no one interfered…her coach, her teammates, the ref…it blows my mind. You do wonder what kind of person does that. And I mentioned earlier…she will be remembered for that her entire life…thanks to the internet…it will always be there. It will be her legacy. And how sad is that?

  18. Great post Michelle, and I applaud your attitude. My grands are playing soccer for the second year and I see that one twin is more athletic than the other, and was put on a team of older girls (hand picked I am told) and has struggled to keep up. Her mother has encouraged her and made sure she knows that it isn’t about winning, it’s about sportsmanship and doing your best. Maddie has learned a lot this season, and it has also taught her that she can’t always be the best (she was last season when she was on a different team). Her brother Duncan, well, he just has fun and tries to keep up.

    I have been amazed at some of the parents on the team. What I have learned about soccer you could put in a thimble, but some of these parents are so busy coaching from the sidelines that I see it is distracting the kids, who should be focusing on the game and listening to the coach…amazing to me. But so far I haven’t see any real stinkers or unsportsmanlike conduct with the kids…so far.

    I do want to say that if Elizabeth Lambert had been my daughter, and I saw her doing those things, I would have responded in a way she could understand. Like cutting some funding for school. I fear she probably learned that nasty attitude (which will follow her into the workplace by the way) at home. Home is where this starts.

    Great post thanks for posting!

    1. Once during a game my daughter was refereeing, a parent on the sideline was making not-so-nice comments about one of the kids on the field. She turned around and said to the parent something to the effect of “I need to ask you to stop making comments about the players on the field” and turned right back around. It’s hard to believe people think it’s ok to just put a kid down in front of everyone else. Would they like that if it were their kid?
      As far as that video goes, if my kid pulled something like that, there would be consequences. Major consequences. But usually poor sportsmanship develops over time…kids get “a pass” so they take it a little further and further each time when there isn’t any consequences. It needs to be stopped early on!

  19. It is very difficult for parents to really understand how they behave really affects their own child’s behavior on and off the field. We have had many car rides home from the field and my husband and I do not discuss any other player or coach in the car with them around. Even though I really want to express myself but I know that my boys are watching and listening. We teach our boys that they need to respect themselves, others and the game!

  20. Simply could not agree with you more Michelle. I remember reading YEARS ago a story about Troy Aikman (I was going to marry him for a long time back in my teens years!) and how his mom basically went nuts at one of his games when he was being a poor sport. She told him that if she ever saw him do that again, she would walk right out onto the field and escort him and he would never play again. All parents should behave that way!-Ashley

    1. What an awesome story, Ashley!! The parents of the girl that hit my daughter in the back on the field were arguing with the ref about the card. My daughter said to me “if I had done that, I would have been done for the season.” She knew we wouldn’t put up with something like that. No matter how frustrated you are on the field, there’s no reason for it. Her parents gave her a pass — and she’ll probably get even more physical now.

      1. Kind of like when we give our kids a pass in other aspects of life. Mine know the rule of no TV during breakfast, but they do it anyway … and because I allowed it, it’s getting out of control.

  21. I could not agree more. I absolutely love the things my kids have learned through sports–working hard to meet goals, teamwork, and how to win and lose graciously. I’m appalled when players aren’t held accountable for their actions. Isn’t good sportsmanship something we are wanting our children to learn? Winning at all costs surely isn’t! But with the way some parents behave on the sideline and in the stands, I see where that mentality is coming from. 😦 I love that Knute Rockne quotation.
    GREAT post!! –Lisa

    1. The Knute Rockne quote was all Eli. I can take no credit there! 🙂 I agree though, it’s crazy the way some parents act…it’s a game! Ten years from now, no one is even going to remember the score!

  22. I think the biggest change in attitude we’re seeing is of the parents. When did they get so mean towards other kids? Coaches and referees know what their jobs are, but undue interference from parents is totally unacceptable.

    1. It blows me away when I hear parents yelling at someone else’s kids…and also the little snippy comments on the sidelines as well…you hear those a lot too. I’m not sure why so many people think it’s ok to be mean. And we wonder why we have bullying issues…

  23. Yay! Michelle! I loved this post! I feel like when it comes to school and sports, parents tend to have a pride issue when it comes to their kids. Sometimes we are so busy trying to make sure our kids are the best and look the best in these areas so we can tell others about it when really sports and school shouldn’t be about that and that shouldn’t be our motives for wanting our kids to do well. I love how you mention what each party should do in order to ensure the kids as players of any sport really learn what they should about life. 🙂

    1. You’re definitely right about the pride issue…I think we all do it to a certain extent. But the thing is, a kid is going to have something that they are really good at, and it might not be the thing we wanted them to be really good at. We have to remember kids aren’t mini extensions of ourselves…they are their own person and that is hard sometimes.

      1. and that they sometimes, even when they’re good, just love to participate. This generation of parents thinks it must make every match the World Cup final – I’ve seen parents ride their kids for not killing it during warmups!

  24. That video was so unbelievable! I can’t believe that she was allowed to play! I wonder if one day her kid will be playing soccer and she can show them this video and see what a role model she would be. Awesome article, Michelle!

    1. I am shocked every time I want that video. It truly is unbelievable. Honestly, I’m surprised her teammates put up with it too…I know my kids would have been disgusted with that kind of sportsmanship. We can hope that video becomes an instrument of change.

  25. Wow! That video is something else. I thought the punch in the back was bad, but the ponytail yank was horrific. I have not witnessed any absence of fair play with my son’s soccer team, but I have heard some sad stories from other moms. Great post, Michelle. Kudos to Eli for being such a supportive host.

    1. Eli is the best!! I was very honored to be here. The stories I shared were among the worst I have witnessed, and I have certainly seen my fair share of lousy sportsmanship. But there are a lot of great examples of good sportsmanship out there too!

    1. You’ll encounter these tools along the way, but hold out hope: There are also among them coaches who will love your kid like they love their own, and will understand that confidence and skill they instill in your child is so much more vital than winning on a given Saturday.

  26. THIS. This is so perfect! I love the lessons kids learn from losing, even if it’s just how to lose gracefully. I love when PARENTS/COACHES/REFs learn this, too! Not long ago someone posted a picture of a HUGE sign at one of their kids’ games that reminded everyone that coaches, refs, etc., were all unpaid volunteers, and no matter what mistakes happen and let’s all be good examples for our kids. SO MUCH THAT!

    1. It’s so easy for us grownups to forget. Just this weekend, I heard a coach ask one of his players to hit someone in the head with an elbow in retaliation. Luckily, the kid refused.

  27. Thank you. I am not a parent, nor a game player. I am however worried at the winning is EVERYTHING attitude which appears to be the norm. And leads to athletes being lauded as demi-gods, and feeling that they can get away with anything. Drugs, anti-social behaviour seem to be overlooked just because of their sporting prowess.
    And the fun is lost.
    If more people followed your simple (and eminently sensible) rules we could all benefit – and learn.

    1. Know the trend I’ve noticed, as a coach? Not so much the winning, but the ‘my child is the star’ attitude. Every parent feels their kid ought to be the center of the team.

      It’s not true, even for the most talented. A team effort is just that. There’s no room for compromising the team in favor of the one, in sport or in life.

      Why on earth would I teach that from the sideline, or pretend that it’s acceptable? You’re right about fun being lost. I can also see the trend away from sporting prowess giving an individual immunity in society.

      We’re holding them responsible, to extensive degrees. It’s about time.

      Michelle’s guest post was stellar and I’m glad I got to share it again with someone!

Say what you need to say

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s