Ideally, youth sports programs like Little League and Pop Warner football build character by instilling positive values associated with fair play, goal-oriented teamwork, respect, camaraderie and the like. And most often that is the effect they have. But unfortunately sometimes negative lessons rooted in a win-at-all-costs ethic may be taught as well.
A recent survey of 803 athletes ages 9 to 15, as well as 189 parents and 61 coaches conducted by Professor F. Clark Power, associate director of Notre Dame’s Center for Ethical Education, reported a number of troubling findings.
• 13 percent of young athletes tried to injure an opponent
• 13 percent made fun of a less-skilled athlete
• 10 percent acknowledged cheating
• 31 percent argued with an official.
There were troubling numbers for coaches as well. One in five said they made fun of a team member with limited skills and one in three said they yelled at players for making mistakes. More disturbing, 7 percent condoned cheating. However, even more alarming, the survey found 8 percent of coaches encouraged their athletes to hurt an opponent and 4 percent of athletes said that a coach hit, kicked or slapped them.