Unsportsmanlike Conduct

Football. Usually, it really doesn’t interest me unless it’s my son’s Pee Wee team and then I am an obsessed fan. Yes, I have become the mother that I used to make fun of. The one who jumps up and down with her hands in the air when they score, the one who yells so loud that my son and husband can hear me from the side lines. That is me, the crazy one that everyone else looks at now.

These games are fun. I love to chat with the parents and watch the boys as they learn and grow and improve. I love to watch them pounce on each other after an amazing play and I love to see how they encourage and pick each other up after a play has failed. This is sportsmanship. This is where they learn how to be unsung heroes and to be a part of something where they are counted on and learn how important it is to show up.

That is the part of the game that I cherish and am so proud to support. Then, of course, there is that darker side where the spirit of sportsmanship is lost and the desire to win takes over. Unfortunately, you see this every year. Coaches yelling at the boys when they are losing, asking them what they were thinking (um, they are 9 and 10, they were probably thinking about where they are going out to lunch later) this is not the NFL. They don’t get a bazillion dollar bonus for winning the championship or an endorsement spot for NIKE or Under Armor. When this season is over, they will go on to the next sport and, based on their experience with the season, choose to come back and play again next year. Or not.

With just three games under our belt we have already been exposed to controversy. Now, I am no expert when it comes to the game of football, I have to be reminded of the rules every year (my son rolls his eyes at my every question). I know that for our league there is an age and weight limit for the team and then there are the exception players. OK, hold it right there. Do you remember being 8 or 10 or 12? Would you have wanted to be called an exception player? Be singled out? No. But they are and it’s for some children who are right at the weight limit and their parents do not want them at the next level because, well that’s a whole ‘nother ball game. So there are these “rules” for these kids, they can’t run the ball or play certain tackle positions because it’s not fair. Well my Dad says “A fair is something that occurs once a year in the country.” That’s all I will say about that.

So, we have this “exception” player. Great kid and good at the sport but does not belong at the next level. Most of the children on this team don’t. They are learning and going through the process that is going to get them to the next level. But I guess when you win a few games it can tick a few people (other coaches) off and they have to complain to the “Commish” (or commissioner, thought that sounded more intimidating). Then this poor boy has to be told that he can’t play a position that he loves or touch the ball or he will get his team a penalty. Seriously? Do we not put enough pressure on our kids these days? What right do these “adults” have to lable this child and tell him he cannot do what comes natural to him. What if the ball is fumbled in front of him? Does he just watch it roll by and hope that one of his teammates jumps on top of it? Really guys, this is ridiculous. It is a game. Maybe some need to look up the definition of that word.

Now his coaches are left to tell this child the news, you can play but by these new rules. Rules that he has never heard of and certainly are not followed on any of the games he has ever watched before. That’s going to make him want to come and practice three days a week. That will definitely make him want to run out on the field on game day knowing that he is the only one with very specific rules to follow. And if he doesn’t, well, the whole team suffers. Makes you want to run out and play, doesn’t it?

As a parent what do you say to this child? It is to ensure the other children’s safety. I get that. But then we play these other leagues whose players tower above our boys and outweigh them by twenty pounds so, I think that throws that argument out the window. Do you tell them that rules are made to be followed? I get that too. But stop changing them. Stop telling him he can play, that he is cleared and all is good and then take it all back. Maybe and adult can understand that (I certainly do not) but a child doesn’t.

So, I’m throwing the flag. Calling a bad play and asking for a review. Unsportsmanlike conduct on the powers that be. Kids look to adults to make the right calls; I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.


Meghan Mack is a mother of three wonderfully energetic children who test and challenge her on a daily basis. Her mission is simple: To share her struggles and successes with other mom's out there so they know that they are not alone in this quest to raise children. She also hopes to make them laugh, reminding everyone(including herself) to not take everything so seriously. The mantra that Meghan lives by "There is no room for judgement" especially when your three year old thinks it's cool to dress himself.