"Play ball," the umpire calls out, and the game begins. The grade-schoolers are in their defensive positions on the field, the pitcher prepares to make the first pitch and the batter is ready.
The pressure is on. The batter will get out, get on base or hit a homer. He will become a hero, a villain or just a youth having fun and learning from the experience.
The young player dreads the possibility of getting out and letting his team down, but he dreads more the cutting remarks he may face, including those of his parents and coach.
Does this sound familiar? "It happens too often, and youth are hurt in the process," says LSU AgCenter 4-H and character education expert John Arceneaux.
"Playing ball should be a winning experience for all players, even for those who don’t win the game," the former Little League and biddy basketball coach says, adding, "This is a high ideal, but it is the foundation of youth recreational sports."
Many more coaches model good character than those who don’t, but the damage caused by a few dishonors sports, hurts youth and creates a negative perception toward one of the greatest character building experiences a youth can have, Arceneaux explains.
One example of a coach’s unsportsmanlike conduct is cursing. Quite often, people overlook it and allow it to continue as being part of the game. It isn’t part of the game and violates the codes of ethics of sports. What a coach says and does-- and doesn't do and say-- set a standard of behavior for his or her athletes and the youth working in support positions with the team.
Coaches are teachers and responsible for teaching good character as well as the skills of the sport. Their classrooms are the practice and playing fields. Would it be appropriate for a classroom teacher to curse? No, just as it isn’t for a coach.
Practices and games are laboratories for life. What is taught, advocated, enforced and modeled in them shapes the lives of individual youth and our today and tomorrow as a society.
Excuses often are made for coaches who curse and do other inappropriate things that violate the very foundation of youth development. This is unacceptable, because the purposes of youth sports are recreation, life skills and sports skill development that enable youth to grow to their fullest potential as individuals and contributing members of society.
Coaches must understand they should be examples of what should be. We can’t expect others to be things we aren't. What we do speaks loudly. How many youth are offended and hurt by a cursing coach? Some aren't offended because they hear cursing all the time. These are the ones who truly need their coach to be a positive example.
"Coaches don't have to curse to ‘fire-up’ their athletes. Other words can be used that create a positive youth development experience and bring honor to the sport, youth and community," Arceneaux emphasizes.
On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: www.lsuagcenter.com
Source: John Arceneaux: (225)578-2424, or Jarceneaux@agcenter.lsu.edu