Blaming others for what goes wrong is a common practice in youth sports–as it is in society. When a run scores, when a touchdown pass is dropped, when a goal is scored, it always has to be someone’s fault, right?
When young athletes get sucked into the blame game, is there ever really a winner?
When your child gets the blame
Whether or not your child is actually called out and blamed for a loss or bad play, he may feel the blame that his team mates are internalizing. What’s the best way for him to respond to the shame of blame? What’s the best way for him to shut the blame game down?
- Don’t make excuses. Excuses are easy to find. And they may make your child feel justified for a moment. But they never help him improve, or fix what went wrong. If making excuses becomes a habit, then it will too often become the reaction to anything that goes wrong in the game.
- Don’t pass around the blame. Sometimes the blame game looks like the hot potato game. One kid blames another kid, who then blames another as quickly as possible, who then passes the blame on to someone else. Passing the blame around doesn’t help kids learn how to fix what went wrong.
- Accept the blame. This is really hard for kids to do and it is something that can only happen as they learn to be true team players. When your child makes a mistake, encourage him to acknowledge it himself, admit it to his team mates, and learn from it.
- Learn from it. Help your child see that focusing on the blame he has received will never help him improve. Encourage him to talk to his coach about his mistake and how he can be prepared next time.
I loved it when I saw my kids start to accept responsibility for their competitive mistakes. When my QB son threw a bad pass, he’d tell his receiver, “that was me, sorry man.” Or when my daughter made a bad pass in basketball, she’d pat her chest and say, “my bad.”
Accepting responsibility while not drowning themselves in blame is a lesson all athletes need to learn.
When your child wants to blame others
It’s almost human instinct, I think, to want to find someone to blame when something goes bad. Thus, the overabundance of lawsuits we have these days.
Finding someone to blame somehow soothes us when bad stuff happens. But honestly, does it really solve the problem?
When your child wants to blame others for mistakes in sports, help him to focus on the problem, on the issue that needs to be fixed, not on the person who did it.
- Don’t join the blame chorus. When his team mates start the blame game, let his silence say that this is one game he is not going to play.
- Help him see that one person’s mistake is the whole team’s mistake. Athletes win as a team and they lose as a team and when they think “we” instead of “you”, they will play better together.
- What could I have done different? Instead of looking to place the blame on another team mate, ask your child if there is anything he could have done to help the situation. Sometimes the answer is no, there was nothing he could have done and other times, the answer is yes, your child could have helped make a difference.
If the pitcher hadn’t walked the runner, then the error made in the outfield wouldn’t have scored a run. A mistake rarely stands alone. It is usually intertwined with other team plays.
No one wins
When athletes start learning very young to play the blame game, no one wins. Kids who learn to take responsibility instead of blaming others will most likely grow up to be adults that take responsibility instead of blaming others. Let’s break the cycle of blame.
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