“After completing his fifth hat-trick for Manchester United, first of the season, Wayne Rooney is to suffer consequences, as FA reveal they are to decide tomorrow whether he’ll be punished for inappropriate goal celebration. “ (Read full article and details here)
Radio playing in the background, I wasn’t listening closely – sports isn’t ‘my thing’. I do, however, enjoy the style of hosts and callers on different BBC Radio5-Live call-in formats. Occasionally an exchange catches my notice, as it did today. Wayne Rooney’s swearing ‘infraction’ was the topic. I perked up my ears when I realized what I was hearing from a caller named Tim.
As is common in ‘suddenly listening to something I’d been ignoring’, I don’t have Tim’s full remarks. Here’s what I gathered:
Tim coaches youth sports. He has noticed something interesting about his young players. When they play football, they are more aggressive, more likely to ‘bad mouth’ situations. When Tim changes the activity to – (oh, dear – was it rugby*?) – an almost unbelievable change happens. (*Alas! the problem of broadcasts moving along when I’ve not got the details!)
The point Tim made, the reason his comments got my attention, is that his young players, he said, immediately change demeanor when the ball they’re given to play, and the game to be played, changes. Their level and intensity of rudeness and/or respect to one another, and to the game, is directly related to what they ‘believe’ is ‘the right way to behave’ for the game. The kids know “unofficial but important rules” of one game means rude behavior; and of another game, unofficial but important rules say “high quality sportsmanship.”
Although he certainly speaks to them when lack of sportsmanship shows up, the important observation Tim makes is how ‘automatically’ rude team behavior turns respectful, without lectures, if he makes one change. A different physical object – a different ball, means a different game, and this triggers different behavior. Change is remarkably quick, observable transformation is close to a night/day shift.
Tim concluded, and I agree with him, modeling from the adult world makes the difference. In this case, they’ve learned of two distinctly different ‘behavior fits’ for two different sports games, by observation. Children mimic what they witness. They want to ‘fit in’, want to ‘achieve what is praised’ . Whatever the adult world seems to find important, becomes important to the kids, (in this case sports success and possibly fame).
Tim made the case that the second game’s official association (rugby?) has emphasized professional behavior that doesn’t support public tempers, swearing, etc..
As I said, I’m not a ‘sports keener’. There’s much thinking and opinion-sharing on what should be done about Wayne Rooney’s swearing incident, and about player public behavior generally. Interested folks will sort out any consequences that might be appropriate. I leave it to them.
Also, I do not mean to single Rooney out! I have no quarrel with him, and wish him well. I use the “Rooney swearing controversy”, because, taken with Tim’s comments, it has broader discussion value.
Other callers also expressed concern about sports-as-model for children. Tim’s comments stood out for me because of the simplicity of his example. The example of changing the object (the ball) and the game to be played, is beautifully plain.
Tim’s example can be applied to “life coaching” generally – If we want youth to practice more respect, less rudeness, we have to take responsibility for what they witness. We shape youth attitude by our demonstrations. If media fame helps nudge professional entertainers and sports people to excess, and the adult world appears to enjoy, accept, or excuse the behavior, an obvious kid-conclusion is “this is how I want to be”. (If adults get carried away with harsh outrage and punishment, it sets up a different and unhelpful ‘model’ for children – a critical detail to keep in mind!)
Coaching children into adulthood is “what we do” – all of us – all the time – not only in sports but in all life’s activity. Tim’s example is clear evidence of how this works, and of it’s importance.
Changing the physical object and game to be played can seem to create an “almost magical” difference in player behavior toward one another, toward the game.
But it’s not ‘magical’ – it can be explained. Influences of entertainment and sports, shape values of entire “generations of children” by behavior of high-profile ‘stars’. The children, of course, eventually become the decision-making adults, (i.e. you ‘n’ me!)
My Best! –MaggieAnn
PS: To make a larger point – Wayne Rooney, like each of us, is much more than any one moment’s behavior. To balance reader ‘sense’ of who Rooney is, here’s a photo I really like! Our goal as humanity should be to create societies that better assure – for every child born into our world – what Rooney shows in the second photo: well-being, felt and expressed. This well-being is delivered (or not) through attitudes and policies – personal, familial, and governmental. To get the second photo experience for everyone, we must ‘demonstrate how’. We must welcome every person. To do this, we must, in families and in society, have a goal to create means to support interest, talent, and contribution. To reach the goal we have to have a consistent ‘attitude’, within ourselves, that supports goal success in all behaviors, (modeling).