No matter how competitive we can get, this is just a game. Sportsmanship is one of the most valuble life lessons that we can take from the game. Our job as youth coaches is to teach the game and its elements to our players while building their confidence, self esteem and respect for others and the game.
Our opponent’s coach is also trying to accomplish the same goals, therefore, we should treat their players the way we would want them to treat our players. The best advice on that is to say nothing to the opposing players with one exception. If an opposing player makes a good play, you can let them know. Say “Hey 3rd base, nice play” as an example. We do not want an opposing coach, player or parent (fan) getting on our pitcher or harassing our batter, therefore, we should not allow that to happen to our opponents. If you have a problem with an opposing player, do not address it with that player. Talk to the opposing coach between innings. Let their coach know what you are seeing and let them deal with that player.
If you didn’t know already, girls like to cheer from the dugout. I am not a big fan of dugout cheers, but if it keeps them involved in the game then let them cheer. Make sure that they are cheering for your team positively and not against the other team negatively. Any attempt to distract or get under the skin of an opposing player is not good sportsmanship.
It is also worth talking about overly aggressive play. I know that it’s hard to believe that a sweet girl can take it too far. I once had a pitcher who was overly aggressive. She got caught in a rundown between 3rd and home. When it became evident that she was going to get tagged out, she tried to run the catcher over and jar the ball loose. The umpire issued her a warning. One inning later, she was covering home on a pass ball and tagged the runner out. The base runner, from the end of the slide, while still laying on her back, kicked my pitcher in the leg. My pitcher reacted by pushing the player back down as she started to get up. The umpire tossed my player from the game. Should she have been tossed? Absolutely!! Should the other player have been tossed also for kicking her? Absolutely, but the umpire did not see the kick. The lesson here is do not retaliate because the umpire is more likely see that than the initial attack. By the way, this happened in a 14U game. Teach your players to walk away from confrontation.
Unfortunately, just one display of bad sportsmanship reflects on your team. Don’t let that happen, your teams’ reputation is worth more. Again, this is just a game. Keep it competitive but fun and learn to appreciate playing other competitive and fun teams. The friendships that develop between teams are based on respect for each other.
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