On the long drive home after a very successful weekend at an Invitational my coaches and I had an opportunity to reflect on the behavior of some coaches, parents and gymnasts. We were in agreement that sportsmanship is really something NOT addressed enough in our sport. It came down to that there are some coach/club owners who allow such behavior out of parents from their gym that it becomes an embarrassment to the sport itself. Many of these same coaches are so focused on the score that they do not see an exemplary performance. These coaches are often the “Bad Winners”.
To get good at winning, you have to get good at losing.
The bottom line is that you or your team is NOT going to win every competition you go to. All winning streaks come to an end. When I first started coaching, my goal was to have each gymnast, and therefore, each team competitive at each level. I knew we weren’t going to have a lot of 1st place team trophies but we were going to have a good product on the floor. As my team grew and my coaching staff improved we started winning more, but my goal was the same. To be competitive. I made sure that every gymnast, coach and parent knew this.
To the Gymnasts: If you have a good meet and someone has a better meet, congratulate them. Appreciate their hard work and determination. It is OK to want to beat the competition, but beat them on their BEST day. If you have a bad meet (and you will), get over it, get back to the gym and get to work. I have seen so many gymnasts not be able to recover from a bad event or a bad meet. Move on. Read my post on Failure, A Prerequisite for Success.
To the Coaches: Practice the 6 P’s. Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. If you plan and Prepare your gymnasts in practice then your job in the meet should be easier. You can not control the competition and you can not control the score. If you go to a meet and get your butt kicked, congratulate that team. As difficult as it is, try to catch some great performances from other teams.
To the Parents: Keep in mind, you never know whose parents or grandparents you may be sitting next to. Say NOTHING negative. Appreciate a good routine regardless of what color leotard that child has on. During awards, clap for every place whether 1st place or 101st place. In the team competition, be respectful. Cheer for every place. If your team wins- Be happy but try not to be over the top with your cheering.
The following is a letter I sent out to parents from my gym following the last competition.
There is no way I can possibly tell you how proud we are of your children. Not just for their performance in the meet but for their composure, and sportsmanship they displayed. In every meet, someone is going to have a good meet and others are going to struggle. Athletes at both ends of the spectrum handled their individual situations with poise and dignity. They cheered for their team mates, they cheered for other competitors. During awards they were respectful of the competition, they were showed real class. This is one thing as coaches we expect of your children at competitions and we are so happy that they acted accordingly.
At FAR TOO MANY competitions, we have seen and heard groups of parents that cheered and acted like they were at a football game. It is always awkward when a team of parents is cheering for “their team” to the point of being obnoxious. I am so happy that this has NEVER been a parent from Atlantic. We really dominated this competition at every level and age group. During the competition I heard many of you applaud for a good performance regardless of what color leotard that gymnast had on. During awards I heard you cheer for every place from top to bottom.
As I left the meet and went over to thank the Meet Director, John, and his brother Gene (the guy giving out awards) they congratulated Atlantic as a team for having a good weekend and then commented on what a classy group of parents we had. We shared a few stories of parents from other gyms who are not as gracious guests and really are an embarrassment to the sport as a whole.
For being such great parents and teaching your kids such great values I THANK YOU. I AM PROUD.