Above anything else, it’s important to be a good sport in softball. It doesn’t matter if you find yourself on the winning or losing team, it’s critical that coaches and parents teach their players how to respect their opponent and the game.
Poor sportsmanship often stems from the leadership of coaches or parents. It’s rare to see poor sportsmanship in the 8U and below softball playing levels. This could be because the players are just trying softball for the first time and the focus is on fun and development. Once players reach the traveling levels, where tournament titles and coaching egos are on the line, emotions tend to run high, and the true colors come out.
Coaches and parents, your players look up to you for guidance at the younger age levels. They trust you and will follow your lead. If players see a parent or coach get frustrated during a game, they may think it’s okay for them to jump in and get upset too. When this happens, the player loses focus on the task at hand and will be unable to perform to her full potential. An example of this could be if a coach disagrees with an umpires call and makes comments towards the umpire from across the field. The players who are close by in the dugout may hear the remarks and take it upon themselves to defend their coach and his/her view on the call. Players should never direct comments or opinions towards an umpire during a game.
Below is a list of several acts of poor sportsmanship that can occur in softball:
- Making rude remarks to an umpire or opponent
- Not giving high fives in line after a game
- Yelling at opponents from the dugout (there is a difference between cheering for your teammates and directing cheers at individual players from the other team)
- Poor body language
- Making excuses and blaming others when things don’t go your way
- Throwing or mistreating equipment
- Using explicit language
In a sport where competitive drive and emotions run high, players, coaches, and parents are bound to have a slip-up or two. It’s important that when it happens, the head coach takes action and confronts the parties who are involved. If it’s the coach who has the slip-up, the coach should take ownership and address his/her mistake to the team and parents. Being able to take ownership for a mistake shows personal growth and will limit mistakes moving forward.
Keep in mind that every single time you step on the softball field you are representing not only yourself, but your teammates, coaches, parents, family members, and community. You don’t want to be labeled as the player or team who exhibits poor sportsmanship. The softball community is small, and word gets around fast. It’s best to take the high road, focus on yourself and your role, whatever that may be as a player, coach, or parent, and strive to be the best version of yourself when you show up to the ball field on game day.