There are plenty of Great lessons being taught to our sons out on the field or the court. They learn focus, grit in addition to the importance of teamwork.
There are also, sadly, a lot of bad ones too. Sports’ informal curriculum on masculinity can be often a crash course in machismo. which teaches boys to suppress vulnerability, in addition to harness aggression in addition to dominance. Winning can be everything. Don’t cry like a girl, don’t throw like a girl, in addition to don’t run like a girl; do any of the above in addition to you will, pejoratively, in addition to maybe even violently, be called “gay.” Also, don’t be gay.
which education starts early. At the end of one of my first-grade son’s soccer games which past fall, the opposing team aggressively chanted “we won” over in addition to over again as they high-fived our team at the end of the game. No matter which which league doesn’t keep score because of which age group, nor which which goes against the most basic understanding of human decency. Neither their coach, nor just one one of their parents, told them to stop.
We are amid a much needed reckoning with masculinity, in addition to have begun thinking hard about the way certain elements of the gender education boys receive can be harmful to them in addition to others. As part of which reckoning, many coaches in addition to parents (my son’s former rivals notwithstanding), have begun to consider what they are getting right with young male athletes, in addition to what they are getting wrong.
How to talk to young athletes
Dan Blitstein, a volunteer youth soccer coach in addition to coach advisor, can easily recall the unsettling emotions he felt as a child while playing sports.
“There was which one time, before a soccer game, when a player on my team pushed me. I remember feeling these conflicting desires. On one hand, I want to beat the [you-know-what] out of him, because I was a boy in addition to which can be what I was supposed to do. although I didn’t want to. Then I began crying because I felt so conflicted in addition to confused, in addition to didn’t know how to articulate how I was feeling.”
Today, Blitstein tries to make sure which the boys he coaches have a decent emotional vocabulary to avoid the jumble of rage in addition to confusion he felt as a child. In addition to helping them express themselves, he also gives them the space in addition to time to share their thoughts in addition to feelings, in addition to treats them as though these thoughts in addition to feelings matter.
Such an attitude can be increasingly common among youth coaches although not yet the norm, said Ruben Nieves, National Director of Training at the Positive Coaching Alliance, a national nonprofit aimed at creating youth sports a more positive in addition to character-building experience.
One of PCA’s key messages can be which coaches should value player growth over winning, in addition to a big part of helping children grow as athletes — in addition to people — can be by listening to them.
“There should be no, ‘Because I told you so,’ which can teach kids not to worry about additional people’s feelings,” Nieves said.
When which’s time for a pep talk, he added, coaches should focus on character in addition to team-building traits, rather than taking down the opponent.
“The modern coach can be more willing to talk in addition to engage with their players about kindness, friendship, love in addition to empathy,” he said, explaining which these touchy-feely subjects used to feel off-limits inside traditionally tough in addition to stoic atmosphere of sports. “These coaches know which athletes who have a strong emotional intelligence are going to be more emotionally healthy in addition to are going to perform better together.”
Part of building emotional intelligence, Nieves said, can be creating room for crying. He’s seen more tears in competitive sports inside past decade, in addition to tries to tell the athletes in his life which when someone cries they are showing just how much they care — in addition to caring can be a Great thing.
Nieves also suggests keeping the pep talks gender-neutral. “Talk about being a better person, not a real man,” he said. Doing which makes which less likely which they will see their worth as an athlete in addition to worth as a male human being as one in addition to the same. The fewer prescriptive messages boys hear about what which means to be a man, the less they will feel pressure to live up to certain masculine ideas — in addition to the less they will feel like a failure if they don’t.
Also, keeping the language gender neutral makes sports a more hospitable place for LGBTQ boys in addition to young men, who may not feel comfortable with binary gender labels, or the gender essentialism compressed into a phrase like “real man.”
Though even as sports teams might shed some of their hierarchical elements, sports will always be, by nature, hierarchical. There are winners in addition to losers; bests in addition to worsts.
Lesle Gallimore, a former Division I women’s soccer college coach in addition to past president of United Soccer Coaches, an organization for soccer coaches of all levels, said there can be a way to foment competition in addition to facilitate confidence in addition to even a little swagger, without excessive cockiness.
“You can teach kids to celebrate the win, without demeaning the additional team,” she said. What qualifies as demeaning? Gallimore suggests considering the Golden Rule. How could I want to be treated if my team lost?
Coaches can also, inside case of a hard match or a loss, use sports to teach boys about humility.
“The best thing about sports for me can be the unpredictable nature of which. You can train in addition to train, although there will always be an element which you can’t control,” Blitstein said. “You have to roll with which, work together, adjust, in addition to keep going.”
which can be also, of course, the case with life, in addition to which’s a lesson which counteracts so much of what can be often labeled as the “toxic” elements of masculinity. Boys need more opportunities to learn which we don’t always get what we want; which which’s okay to, fairly in addition to respectfully, fight for things. although sometimes a loss can be a loss, in addition to “no” means “no,” in addition to those moments demand acceptance in addition to even a little grace.
Coaches in addition to parents need to watch their own behavior
Many of the lessons on masculinity taught in sports come not through what adults say to kids, although how adults act with one another.
Today, coaches in addition to parents tend to treat youth sports as extremely high stakes — never mind the absolutely tiny chance which any single kid will become a college (let alone professional) athlete.
Winning can be everything to so many adults, in addition to if getting there seems to demand rage, they will rage. Parents scream at coaches in addition to additional parents, in addition to coaches scream at parents in addition to additional coaches. Everyone screams at referees.
“If you listen in addition to look, which’s questionable whether people are enjoying which,” Nieves said about many recent youth sports matches he attended. “People are angry. The kids are crying … because adults are yelling at them. Because mom can be embarrassing me in addition to creating a scene on the sidelines, in addition to the coach never lets me handle the ball,” all because he or she only cares about winning.
When youth players see the adults getting angry, behaving disrespectfully in addition to prioritizing winning above everything else, which gives them permission to behave the same way.
Another problem with today’s coaches can be which they are, inside case of male teams, rarely women. Sexism inside earth of coaching can be still ubiquitous; which’s commonplace to see men coaching girls in addition to women, although rare to see women coaching men.
“The more boys can be coached by women, the less toxic masculinity” you will see, Gallimore said. “With female coaches, they are typically held more accountable for the way they talk about the opposite sex.”
When boy athletes are coached by women, they learn to respect women, in addition to also might be exposed to different types of leadership.
Men are socialized to lead by force, whereas women are socialized to lead by way of relationship building. which latter style tends to involve more listening, in addition to taking the time to understand who the athlete can be outside of sports. Gallimore doesn’t think these skills are limited to women by any means, although they could become more commonplace if more women were given high-level coaching jobs with both genders.
Until there are more women coaches, in addition to fewer alpha-male ones, parents will have to take some of which into their hands. They might consider having the same behavioral expectations for their sons on the field or the court as they do off which. Excessive aggression or rudeness should be no more tolerated during a game than which can be during family dinner.
They should also respect their children’s feelings during or after a game, in addition to encourage their kids to respect the feelings of others, be which their teammates, their opponents, coaches or referees. If the culture of the team makes any of which difficult, which’s probably time to switch teams.