Aside from its obvious benefits, organized sports also has the potential to teach kids very difficult lessons—as the Atlee Junior League Softball Team from Mechanicsville, Virginia learned in their recent run at the Junior League World Series in Washington.
Before the series, one member of the team posted a rude Snapchat picture of six of the players, who range age from 12 to 14 years old, sticking up their middle fingers with the caption: “Watch out host.” And it was this photo that caused the team’s disqualification from their game—a game that they'd already won 1-0, after the other team cheated. Despite the apologies from the girls to their rivals and an apology from Atlee manager Scott Currie, the Little League International Tournament Committee removed the team from the series.
As a mom of a 12-year-old competitive softball and soccer player (and 9-year-old competitive baseball player), I’m standing up and cheering when I see leagues taking action on this clearly unbecoming player behaviour. It's highly likely these girls signed a Code of Conduct to participate on a competitive team—one that dictates sportsmanlike behaviour in a positive but competitive setting. A picture featuring players flipping the bird? You’re outta here, because it most definitely violates that code.
After all, I’ve seen umpires threaten to throw coaches out and remove parents from the game for openly and loudly questioning umpires. In soccer, I’ve seen yellow cards (and know of red cards—which means the player is removed from the game and isn’t replaced) given to girls under the age of 12 for swearing at opponents. It’s action and discipline, as simple as that, and if anything, I’d like to see even more disciplinary action on behaviour such as this.
In fact, can we get our major leagues to take more action like this, too? Not only on plays on the field or diamond, but on the unbecoming player behaviour that really is the ugly side of sports. Recent examples include the time Toronto Blue Jays centre fielder Kevin Pillar apparently called an Atlanta pitcher “faggot,” earning himself a two-game suspension. I would have loved to see a similar punishment issued to U.S. women's soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo, who called her opponents “cowardly” on social media—despite the fact that she said it after her team was eliminated from the Olympics.
This isn't just about teaching our kids about how to conduct themselves when playing sports. Aren't we all also trying to teach tweens and teens about the permanence of social media? Isn’t it better to learn this via getting tossed from a tournament than to lose your job because you SnapChatted a photo giving your boss the finger behind her back?
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