Friday, September 18, 2009

Serena Williams and respecting the line judge

Dear Good Sports,

So much has been written and said about Serena Williams's outburst at the line judge the weekend (and also about those other bad, bad manners moments by Kanye West and Joe Wilson) that I don't know what shatteringly new ground I can cover or new insight I can give you here on the Good Sport Bad Sport Blog -- except for this one important point:

Respect the Officials!

We need to let our children know by our words and actions that it's never alright to talk back to, swear at, or threaten an official. Never.

Okay -- you may agree in theory. Of course, you say, I would never ever say something like that to an official at my child's game/meet/performance. No need to remind me!

But -- what about in practice? Think about last week's soccer game, or the swim meet in July. Did you disagree with a call or a penalty? Did you grumble that the other team got away with something because the ref missed it? Or, maybe when your daughter came in second at the gymnastics competition, you were angry with the judge.

Maybe in practice we really aren't so great!

Courtesy is a hard rule to follow when our kids are disappointed, we're disappointed -- and truly, maybe the official did make a mistake or two.

But so much of how we act in sports and around sports teaches us life lessons that carry over into how we live the rest of lives: lives in which we'll always come across situations where we are judged unfairly or need to learn from our mistakes (and need to control our frustrations and tempers). How we handle and learn from those situations can determine how successful and happy we can be.

That's why recognizing that the Referee/Umpire/Judge/Official is a person who should be respected for their skills and knowledge is an important rule to teach our children and remember to follow ourselves.

The disappointing thing about Serena's behaviour is that because she is a role model for our children, she puts us in the tough position of having to explain that her behaviour in that instance is not acceptable (as much as we may have understood her emotions and anger at that moment). Whether she's asked for it or not, she carries a certain responsibility to her young fans. And, unfortunately, it was just one more very prominent example of how rudeness and bad manners seem to be taking over our society.

Now, respecting the official may not be easy to do if you're used to making comments. Or, if you've also allowed your child to grumble and make comments. But there's one basic courtesy to follow that should make it easier for both of you: if you can't say anything nice about someone, don't say anything at all!

Instead, focus those negative comments and energy into what your child and/or team did do well, or on what she learned, or what he can work on for next week, and you'll have a much more positive outcome and experience.

I'm hoping that my next blog will continue on the theme of "sports and sportsmanship as life lessons" unless some other bad sports moment happens again and needs to be discussed.

Until then,respect the refs -- and have fun!