COACHING TIPS: Harness the Power of Video to Teach Sportsmanship
Using Video of Ugly Incidents to Teach Sportsmanship
By Doug Abrams
“If you have a lemon, make a lemonade.”
So wrote Dale Carnegie in his popular self-improvement book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living (1948). Carnegie’s point was that people succeed best when they seek positive lessons from unanticipated personal setbacks. Good salespeople lose contracts, good employees face hurdles on the job, good parents face occasional obstacles in childrearing — and good youth coaches and school administrators face headwinds throughout the season.
In everyday life, some personal crises are so crushing that pursuing positive lessons may be fruitless, at least in the short term. But youth sports games are — well, games. Losing a tight game, for example, can be tough pill to swallow, but most coaches and athletes can work through defeats and even learn from them.
Throughout the season, most of a youth team’s lessons stem from the coaches’ careful preparation for practice sessions and games. Planned lessons may concern fundamentals and skills, or they may concern sportsmanship, respect and similar values.
Many of the team’s lessons, however, arise unscripted. Even for youth coaches and school administrators unfamiliar with Carnegie’s work, unexpected events offer “teachable moments” for adults who are perceptive enough to help players draw positive lessons from setbacks — that is, to make lemonade from lemons.
“We Can’t Let It Cross the Line”
Earlier this week, an unanticipated teachable moment hit the headlines in Salt Lake City, Utah, thanks to release of a video taken by a fan at a girls’ high school soccer game on September 27. The video shows an East High School player approaching a fallen opponent and kneeing her in the face after the play. The unmistakably intentional nastiness near the net quickly found its way to YouTube, where it has already received a few hundred views.
According to press reports, East High School authorities did not sweep the kneeing incident under the rug, make excuses, or otherwise seek to deflect personal accountability. “You need to know how to be physical and not cross the line of being physical,” East’s principal said after watching the video, adding that “the play had been stopped in this case, and it was blatant and no excuse for it.”
The offending player publicly apologized, and discipline may await her from the school and the league. Even more important, however, the Salt Lake City School District announced that it would “take the video and show it to the soccer team and other teams. We understand games get physical or emotional, but we can’t let it cross the line.”
Players Learn What They Watch
To a younger generation raised on visual instruction, video can be a potent teaching tool when it shows actual incidents of sportsmanship and respect taking a hit in youth leagues, high schools and professional sports. The video need not even show a local incident because YouTube and other Internet sources provide plenty of useful video clips from around the country.
Rather than wait for their teams’ first nasty incident, coaches can be proactive and show a few of these video clips when they discuss sportsmanship in preseason meetings with players. As Rick Wolff and I have urged on the air, coaches should remind players that the chances of getting away with on-the-field assaults are not good today because video cameras are everywhere. What player wants to be an international YouTube sensation because of a momentary lapse in the heat of the game?
Most youth leaguers watching the video clips will know right from wrong, and they will get the message. This week’s East High School video clip would be instructive for players from coast to coast. If East High School indeed uses the clip as a teachable moment for its teams, lemonade will be in the school’s future.
[Sources: Dale Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, p. 138 (1948); Cristina Rendon, Mother Speaks About Daughter's Assault on High School Soccer Field,
(Oct. 15. 2012); Shara Park and Lori Prichard, East High Knee to Opponent's Head Caught on Video,
(Oct. 15, 2012)]