Two, four, six, eight
Who do we appreciate?
The [opponents’ team name] !!
Anyone who’s played, or coached, or just watched youth sports has heard that cheer. The idea behind it is a good one: the winning team is thanking the opponents they just beat for having playing hard and done their best.
It’s also a subtle reminder to winning teams that how you win can be as important as whether you win. Insulting or humiliating your opponents simply isn’t acceptable, and neither is cheating or playing dirty. Being on a team that plays with integrity makes players feel good about themselves, helps bring them together, and builds team spirit.
That last part, building team spirit, is easier said than done.
When kids are very young, one of the primary goals of youth sports is to make whatever they’re involved in so much fun that they want to come back and do it again next year. Sure, people talk about winning, and the majority of coaches and parents support that goal by emphasizing sportsmanship, skill building, self-improvement, and teamwork. One of my favorite things about my daughters’ swim team is the emphasis on best times. There have been a number of instances when she’d ask me right after a race what place she’d come in, and I’ve had no idea. But I could always tell her whether she’d made a new best time.