Stop the Cheating in Youth Sports!
Parents, coaches and high-profile athletes are blurring the lines between gamesmanship and outright cheating. It’s time to stop that trend.
When Major League Baseball found the Houston Astros guilty of using modern technology and banging trash cans to steal signs during the 2017 season, it created a firestorm throughout all of sports. One school of thought claimed the team was just taking advantage of resources available to get an edge. Many others believed the scandal was a black eye on the game, and the team should have its World Series championship stripped from them.
The urge to win is like a powerful drug; once you get a taste of it, you can’t get enough. Unfortunately, youth sports is not immune to this way of thinking. The expectations placed on kids from T-ball to the high school level can be overwhelming.
The tragedy is when those high expectations lead many players to sacrifice sportsmanship and ethics to satisfy the desires of someone else.
As John O’Sullivan, head of the nonprofit group Changing the Game Project pointed out in a 2014 blog post, there are clear definitions of stepping over the line. Performance-enhancing drugs, knowingly using illegal players, and deliberately attempting to injure opponents are clear examples of cheating to achieve a desired result.
In other situations, the line isn’t always easy to distinguish. But there are ways young athletes can learn the difference and still succeed.
Set a Good Example
As a coach or parent, you are the model athletes will pattern themselves after. O’Sullivan quotes Dr. Ron Quinn, a professor of sports ethics at Xavier University, in making this point.
“Once they learn how important the game is to adults, they will learn how to cheat,” Quinn says.
In other words, kids will follow your lead. If authority figures constantly encourage them to break a rule, they’ll believe there are no consequences. Instead, they should be encouraged to develop as individuals, have fun, and give their best possible effort. Success will usually follow.