Fairness in Sports

Years ago, I used to give private pitching lessons to kids. During these half-hour sessions I spent plenty of time talking with the parents of these children. Most of the time it was a pleasure to speak with these folks. They usually had realistic perspectives when it came to their children’s abilities. Of course, there were exceptions.

During these half-hour lessons, some parents would give their child more instructional advice than I would. It made me wonder what they were paying me for. Some wanted to tell me why their son wasn’t pitching. The number-one reason given was that the coach of the team would pitch his own son even though he had no talent. It just wasn’t fair.

What could I say to these parents? I did not know if their statements were true or the understandably biased opinions of proud parents. Not knowing the whole picture, I usually responded to their venting with pointless remarks such as, “Yeah, Little League can be pretty frustrating at times.” Sometimes, I even found myself agreeing with them, taking their side against a coach I’d never met. For all I know the man might have just been honored in Williamsport as the Little League coach of the decade, and his son really is the second coming of Roger Clemons. Still, I would make a comment like “It’s too bad your son has to play for a coach who is so selfish.” Oh well, like the old adage says: The customer is always right.

There are (and always will be) coaches who volunteer their managerial services for the sole purpose of making certain that their child gets to pitch. How will you deal with this situation if it occurs on a team for which your child plays?

There are actually two parts to this question. First, is it absolutely true that the coach’s son has the pitching skills of a mannequin? Next, as bad as the coach’s son may be, is yours any better? Or does your kid pitch like a mannequin with a cast on his arm? Sometimes parental pride overcomes sound judgment. Try to be as objective as possible.

If, after wrestling with this question, you still maintain that your son is the better pitcher, what will you do? Let’s consider a few possibilities.

You may choose to become angry and frustrated, believing that these feelings of yours are justified. After all, it is wrong for the coach to take advantage of the situation. And yes, your son did catch a bad break by having to play for this coach. But what do you gain by adopting this posture? Heartburn and high blood pressure? You can be certain that your child will observe your reaction. He will interpret your behavior and conclude that when unfair things happen it its best to complain and criticize.

Since a feeling of impotence is one of the results of unresolved frustration, you might want to take a more direct approach. Try talking with the coach. Challenge his philosophy. You might convince him to see the error of his ways (Yeah, and pigs will fly when the Cubs win the World Series).

Even if the coach understands your logic, he will probably disregard in favor of his own petty attitude. However, if you can have this discussion without losing your temper, your sense of frustration might be lessoned and your child will learn that it is more satisfying and productive to confront difficult situations rather than to grumble over them.

Unfortunately, neither of the previous options is likely to bring about much change or personal satisfaction. As adults, most of have learned that where problems of fairness are concerned, easy solutions are not always attainable.

Sit down with your child and go over the issue of fairness. Explain that unfair people and situations are part of life. Let him or her know that you are proud of the sense of fairness he or she has developed. Persuade your child to use this occurrence as a lesson that will prepare him or her for life as a grown-up. Assure your child that if he or she learns to deal with the unfair aspects of this world when young, he or she will become a person of better character as an adult.

The beliefs your child acquires regarding the subject of fairness have long-term consequences. Will your child become a mature adult who accepts what life brings to the table, dealing with it appropriately and then moving forward? Or will he or she become a complaining malcontent, wandering through life with a chip on his or her shoulder and an excuse on his or her lips. I hope not. We already have enough of these people.