This year I got a new coaching position at Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln HS, in Council Bluffs, Iowa. After coaching in Nebraska for 6 years, I was unaware Iowa coaches have to earn a Coaching Certificate in order to work in the state. So this winter, I am taking coaching classes at Iowa Western Community College. I thought I was done going to school after my Master’s, but my education continues. One assignment, I have posted below deals with sportsmanship. I would love to get some feedback on what actual HS students feel about today’s enviroment. Take a minute and give it a read. I know it doesn’t deal directly with pitching, but I love to hear your thoughts.

Is Sportsmanship Dead?

Like our society, sportsmanship has really changed over the last 20 years. Today, high school athletes have many different factors that affect the way they look at treating opponents, officials, and team members. These new variables have led athletes down a dangerous path toward negativity and unconstructiveness. Not only does this develop a sense of pessimism toward athletics, but overall bad feelings about today’s younger athletes.

Advanced technology was helped shaped the way athletes treat each other. The Internet has played a large role in how students communicate. Now, chat rooms and websites offer high school students a chance to interact with one another. When used appropriately, these can be very productive in helping students develop relationships. Often, this is not a popular approach in using updated technology. Instead, many high school athletes tend to visit websites that allow negative information to be posted by members of the site. Usually, these sites do not require members to use their real names. So, athletes have a free rein to banter back and forth with absolutely no accountability for their words. Frequently, this practice has resulted in verbal or physical altercations on and off the playing field.

Parenting attitudes and actions have helped instigate increased bad behavior of high school athletes. Being a poor role model is one way parents have assisted in the influx of negative sportsmanship. For example, during a 2004 high school basketball game in Pennsylvania where a parent body slammed a referee for ejecting his wife from the game for using obscenities. These kinds of incidents have helped high school athletes view violence as an acceptable reaction to unfavorable outcomes. Behavior like this has been highly publicized in the media, causing many organizations to become advocates for better parent behavior. In fact, the International Institute of Sports for the last 16 years has promoted a National Sportsmanship Day. Many famous athletes have jumped on board like Lance Armstrong, Chris Spielman, and Jennie Finch.

Practicing a team concept is another element of sportsmanship that has deteriorated in high school athletics. Today’s players seem to have a very selfish outlook on athletic involvement. This type of attitude has trickled down from professional players through the college ranks. Now, today’s best players often find themselves on the worst teams because their attitude is not conducive with creating a winning environment. This trend provides evidence that often players put their individual wants against vital team needs. In previous athletic environments this type of attitude was not accepted in sports.

In conclusion, today’s athletes must fight off many distractions to practice proper sportsmanship. Athletes may even face peer pressure from teammates not to be a good sport during and after competition. To help remediate this increasing problem, coaches must provide proper instruction on the importance of good sportsmanship. Also, they must send a clear message that bad sportsmanship will not be tolerated within their athletic problem. By using this deterrent, coaches can hedge off embarrassing behavior of athletes in practice and game situations.

Coach, these comments are coming from my son (age 16) and myself in sort of a joint effort.

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My son uses MySpace and ICQ as a means of communication. This has made it easy to talk with players from other schools nearby. Sometimes the talk generates negative attitudes. I think it gives the opposition more ammunition during the game because alot of personal information is available through these sites. As a result, more personal insults can be heard at games.

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My son would much prefer that parents “keep their mouth shut” unless they have something positive to say. From my perspective, I’m not sure things are any worse than they used to be. I remember only three things about my Little League experience circa 1969-1971. 1. Hitting my first homerun which shattered the front windshield of a car parked behind the right field fence. 2. Catching
a future major leauge player and world series manager. 3. A parent running onto the field and punching the umpire in the eye and knocking him out.

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We think this is absolutely the most valid point you make. It comes from high school players watching professional role models. NBA basketball can barely be called a team sport. ESPN is watched by all high school students. The contracts and salaries of MLB players are talked about routinely by high school players. And statistics are worshipped in the media making individual performance more important than the team.

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We have a football coach at our high school who held players accountable for their actions on and off the field. He kept some very good athletes off the team for that reason. As a result, he lost more games. This year the parents lobbied to have him replaced.


This makes a very valid point, and a point I feel isn’t touched on enough today. As a player, it’s tough not to trash talk the other team up, especially when you know people on the other team. Although technology has advanced the way we communicate with each other, I’ve never seen things from MySpace or AIM used as fuel for the fire.

I will also agree with Dino that the biggest and best point made in the assignment is that the professionals do send negative images, most of the time. The Pistons, and more recently, Knicks brawls were great examples, but the little things that most people tend to ignore that some professional atheletes do qualify as very sportsmanlike in my book. Before the tip-off of almost every NBA basketball team, you will see the players wish each other luck and shake hands.

Although these are only the opinions of a high-schooler, I’ve had my share of experiences with unsportsmanlike behaivor, and feel that as a player and in some cases, a representative of my school, that sportsmanship is a necessity for all athletes to practice.

From a sophmore having played both HS basketball and baseball:
(This may become a rant to a degree, yet it’s still my perspective)

Also, I define sportsmanship somewhat different then the common definition, refering to how you treat your opponents. In high school you play plenty of teams that you don’t really know anyone persay, maybe read there name somewhere but nothing special. My sportsmanship defintiion has a lot more to do with the treatment of teammates, and respect for everyone around you. This is especially exhibited when one is loosing, cause I think everyone can be nice when they’re up by 10 runs.

Well, first I have to say our attitude with sports and accountability, in a word, it sucks, right now. And it has been a trickle down effect, starting with the pro’s, and now all the way into highschool and youth sports.

I think sportsmanship starts with the parents, however that’s getting completely lost now with the desire to win being held at a far higher level then conduct. Kids at 12 years old are built up to think they’re better than everyone, and that everyone should owe them something.
That kindn of mentality will never come with good sportmanship. And in times of adversity causes the player to absolutely melt down under pressure, and never be what they could be with their natural ability.

Over the summer the 2 years has been an interesting allstar experience. 15 guys, about 10 of which will cut up eachother, entirely serious and angrily, no sportsmanship to even their teammates. The parents didn’t hold them accountable to anything at home, and at the field the coach didn’t do anything.

The coach had built up a select few kids to think that they were going to be the whole team and “carry” us. Didn’t work that way, coach realizes he made a mistake, and asks people who actually know how to lead, to step up and lead the team. Summer ends well.

Next year, couple new kids come in, and guess what, the coach puts it all on them, taking leadership from proven leaders, giving it to people with no respect. One of the new guys skipped practices and a game to go fishing, first game back he started on the mound.
Needless to say we got absolutely crushed by our opponents, talentwise we should have been several times better though.

Alright, so that was my rant, and I need to tie it back into sportsmanship. With this absolute lack of control exhibited by the coach, and no standards for ones actions, I have never seen so many pitiful attitudes.
So much profanity, throw helmets, and bats it was just pathetic.

Now opposite end of the spectrum, High school ball, practicing with JV and Varsity together… best experience in sports for me, and it was the worst I’ve ever hit for a season.

Respect started with the coach. You didn’t step out onto that field for tryouts without respecting everyone out there, and especially the coach, because if you didn’t you weren’t gonna be on the sheet with players that made it.

Sportsmanship was incredible between the players, it does help to win, state champs btw, with 4 guys from the 07 class already signing with quality D1 schools and a couple more still waiting to make there decision.

Absolutely incredible group of guys, on and off the field.

As far as role models from pro athletes go, that’s definately part of the problem.

Sometimes it seemed like I had guys on my team, throwing there helmets and stuff, just because, because it seemed like they should be doing it for some unknown reason.

Problem is they not only bring down themselves but everyone else.

Players really don’t understand how to be effectively cocky, and I have to say my high school coach taught it well.

In baseball when you fail so much, you have to go in every situation expecting to come out and win, but if you don’t you need to figure out what happened and get ready for your next chance.

I really have to laugh when a guy says something about the other team like “they’re not even good, they suck” and this is after a maybe a 3 strikeout performance at the plate.

As far as individual performance it’s quite interesting today. Unfortunately complex stat tracking has leaked down into the younger levels as well. This wouldn’t be a problem if players weren’t so ubsessed with stats.

Currently playing basketball, it’s an interesting experience. I recently heard and ESPN analyst say that stats in basketball mean absolutely nothing, and are a joke. I can’t say I would disagree with that.

One of the most frustrating things is having won a game, and havin a teammate whining because they weren’t able to pad their stats.

Thanks for the reply guys. It is interesting to actually get a HS perceptive on this matter. As an adult, my view is not always on-target with what is actually happening. Keep the responses coming and I will share them with my class. This is a wonderful learning tool.


Wow, good post Coach Kreber!

But I have one question to the posters on here? In watching how the media portrays athletes vs coaches, when is it okay to challenge a coach on their perspective? Is that allowed at the high school level?

I’m wondered this due to my own baseball experiences, and past biases I’ve felt the coaches have shared with teamates of mine…

And also, how does one deal with teamates of theirs who continously come into games not ready to play-mentally, and physically? The team I played for previously, who I am no longer affilitated with, continously used to goof on game days, and when it came time to play, it reflected on our performance. I always felt like they worried about the next up coming party, or where they were going to go drinking after the game, or better yet, to get factual, how they would actually admit, and emphasize how much alcohol they drank the night before, or even that morning!

So where does sportsmanship come into effect when relating to individual efforts pertaining to a desire to win? A desire to branch off, and possibly play for a team with players that have the same mind set as theirs?

Basing it off of my experience, I’ve never bought into my former team’s philosophy, and better yet, the coach’s philosophy, and how he, and the coaching staff did things? In the years that I’ve played with them, I never felt like I improved, but through other people not affiliated with the team, I recieved help, and brought my game up to another level. And when everyone else was partying, I was working on my game from a mental stand point, and also doing my own individual workouts.

I don’t know, these last few years have been sort of a dissapointment for me from a team perspective; I always felt like we had the players to put together a championship team, but due to other circumstances not relating to baseball, they held themselves back from reaching another level. And I never felt the coaches did their job in efforcing discipline, or better yet, implicating programs that could have potentially benefitted the team…

Anyways, this is a long message… this is more of a rant, and I apologize for that…

I totally agree with this-the phoenix suns basketball team fit this definition quite perfectly! They play as a team, they win as a team, and most importantly, they don’t worry about stats, but whether or not get the W…

my high school perspective…
having played 2 seasons in high school baseball and 2 seasons in a high school aged summer league, I’ve seen my fair share of sportsmanship… or lack thereof.
In high school there is less arguing with umps by the players, but coaches and parents reserve no comments to being unsaid.
But, in the summer w/ less structure and less reprecussions to being so unsportsmanlike I’ve seen countless kids mutter comments and even argue with umpires. Now they may not always get the calls right, but some punk kid arguing isn’t going to get the call changed. My coach has been an excellent coach for all of us because he handles himself so professionally. Always shakes the umpires and opposing coaches hand regaurdless, and when he argues a call he doesn’t argue, he politely asks the umpire why he made the call, where the pitch was ect… never does he lose his temper. It’s good, especially for younger hs age kids to be exposed to good sportmanship like I have been.

I totally agree with this-the phoenix suns basketball team fit this definition quite perfectly! They play as a team, they win as a team, and most importantly, they don’t worry about stats, but whether or not get the W…[/quote]

I think the fans and some of the league are beginning to recognize in the Suns the way the game used to be played. Hopefully they can win it all this year to convince the nay-sayers that this type of play can be successful as well. Then maybe we’ll see more of it. It sure is fun to watch - especially if you’re a Suns fan! :wink:

I think the fans and some of the league are beginning to recognize in the Suns the way the game used to be played. Hopefully they can win it all this year to convince the nay-sayers that this type of play can be successful as well. Then maybe we’ll see more of it. It sure is fun to watch - especially if you’re a Suns fan! :wink:[/quote]

If more teams play like the Suns, I may have interest in watching the NBA, my interest in it can’t get any lower.
Even the college game is starting to become more like the NBA, I like to watch full court press and flex offense. Those require a lot of teamwork.

Back to the topic, regaurding what lbarber said.

Having teammates without desire is one of the most frustrating things in sports. In basketball I think we’ve had actually less talent than 1 team, and we actually split 1-1 versus them. On the season we’re only 9-6. We’ve got some lazy guys but the continue to play more minutes than anyone. Atleast they want to win, but they get extremely lazy on the floor.

For baseball I played under a coach, that is definately my favorite that I have played for. Nobody slipped by, you had to bust your butt, or he was gonna ride you. Do everything he asks, specifically hustle, and you’ll get along just fine. Winning always helps too.

lbarber: I’m curious how old your coach was, I’ve noticed younger coaches, only a few years removed from college seem to struggle with handling players more.
I feel it’s because they are to close to being a peer.
If he’s been coaching a long time, i have no clue, I’m sure it was a frustrating experience though.


You make a good point about the coach’s age. Being a coach right out of college, I too experienced some growing pains about player relationships. As a teacher, it was a little easier for me to draw a line between appropriate and inappropriate.

Looking back, I guess the parents were a little harder to handle than the players. These relationships are just as complicated as coach/player, especially when you play a season that lasts 6 months. If you ever that a chance find the book Coach by Michael Lewis. It is a wonderful book about a coach, who constantly battles parents during the baseball season.

It also deals with entitlement attitudes of people when talking about money in HS sports. It it a problem, especially in baseball and soccer, when talking about summer programs that cost a lot of money to operate.

The program at our HS cut a couple promising freshmen this year presumably due to their attitudes. One tended to be lazy and the other’s parents lacked commitment in that they were continually pulling the player out of practices for other activities. Last year a promising sophmore was cut due to goofing off. He’s back and working hard and hopefully the freshmen who were cut will learn a lesson and come back ready to play.

We’ve also seen hardworking players kept on the team mostly because of their hard work, yet at the same time there’s no guarantee as some hard working juniors who just didn’t project to have the talent to help on varsity next year were cut even though they could have helped on JV this year.

I’m a firm believer that a HS coach can shape the attitudes and actions of their players to a great degree if they are willing to stand up for what they believe in.