Column: Teaching sportsmanship is important


By Heather Kestian

My oldest loves soccer. Thankfully, we can find the English Premier League on television, which he thinks is beyond awesome. He practices what he sees on television in the living room and outside, which is a combination of cool and nerve-wracking.

He plays on a team with other first graders and there are no goalies at this age. Unless, of course, someone plants a kid just outside of the arch around the goal and calls it defense. Some overheard comments, “why is that kid just standing there?” After the first break away, it became clear why he was standing there.

After a few times of the kids getting frustrated that they could not score, a parent mentioned a well-timed “hey, I thought we couldn’t have goalies?” right as the coach passed by. Nothing changed and more kids became visibly frustrated.

“This isn’t fun,” said one of the kids.

We ended up getting one goal. Exactly One. After that one goal, he ran back and said “that was really hard!” Usually, each kid gets a chance to score or be part of the team that gets a goal. You can feel the accomplishment as they jump up and down and high five each other and their coach. Sometimes, it brings me to tears. This is where they are learning about teamwork and sportsmanship. It is inspiring.

When we got to the car, my kid asked me why they had a goalie and we didn’t. I told him it was all about perspective. Sometimes, people can look at something and see two different things. We saw a goalie, they saw someone on defense, waiting for the ball to get near the goal so they could kick it away. See, perspective?

“Why didn’t our coach change? We could have had someone on defense.” The following ensued: Me: Did you see this as defense? Kid: No, he seemed like a goalie to me. Me: Are we supposed to have goalies? Kid: No. Me: Why would we do something if we think we shouldn’t? Kid: To win?

It isn’t about winning. We always do the right thing, even if it isn’t popular, even if it means you feel like you have lost. You never lose when you do the right thing. Got it?

Kid: “Then why don’t people always do the right thing?” The answer to that question requires more space than I have here.

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