Being polite can be more important than winning

By Clyde Davis: Local Columnist

Somewhere along the line, I learned this. It may have been when Mr. Johnston, Richie’s dad, who coached our Little League team the Ravens, made us shake hands with the Eagles after they beat us 12 to nothing.

It may have been when Coach Kasimankas grabbed Jeff Tracy by the chinguard and made him take his helmet off for the national anthem, as you are supposed to do. It may have been when Coach Roman pulled Gary Stipanzic from the starting lineup, even though he was our best quarterback, because he had deliberately failed to wear a tie as we were supposed to do on game day.

It may have been when Coach Ford brought the girls health and PE class into our boys class so that he and Ms. Reese could show us, and demonstrate, things about being a gentleman — such things as holding a chair, opening car doors and helping with coats.

Somewhere along the line, I learned that being a gentleman was important, and that this was particularly true if one was an athlete. I suspect, though, that it was meant as a lesson for all the young males, athlete or no.

I think about it in the context of sports because of the remark that inspired, or rather altered, this column. Somebody shared with me that, this summer just past, the Clovis police were called, not once, but several times, to the Little League field to break up fights. Between parents.

I love coaching my grandson’s basketball and T-ball teams. It’s a whole new experience, because although I have frequently done coaching, this is the first time I have ever worked with people this little, aged 5, 6 and thereabouts.

I love it because not only does it give me a chance to teach the fundamentals, but to help them become young gentlemen— or in the case of basketball, which is gender mixed, ladies and gentlemen.

I can’t imagine how embarrassed I would be if any of the parents of the players I coach— parents whom I openly ask to get as involved as they wish— were to act uncivil in a game or scrimmage. It is my blessing that the parents I have worked with have been not only willing to get involved, but polite and trying also to set a positive environment.

What is going on in the mind of an adult who takes children’s sports as a place to get into a fight? Is the child’s success on the playing field so important that the adult is willing to sacrifice the greater goal of character development?

Is that adult simply living out the fantasies of the success he or she never experienced? How sad.

Competition in any arena can bring out the best, and the worst, in us. With the proud tradition, for example, that the Clovis Wildcats marching band has established, I could imagine parents, fans or students getting combative over a contest. The problem is that we as adults are supposed to set the example.

My guess is that, most often, the parent who gets into an uproar is the same parent who derides his or her child for performance. I remember last year, during basketball season, the little girl from an opposing team who kept looking to her mom for approval. No, I don’t mean at the normal level, but constantly. I remember thinking, how sad.

Sports are supposed to be for fun. Children’s sports, in particular, are also for character development. What happens when we lose sight of this?