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New Survey Explores Sportsmanship

By, 06/10/14, 12:00PM MDT


With hockey season wrapping up, a new national survey of 2,000 youth sports parents and coaches by Liberty Mutual Insurance illuminates a troubling decline in what some would say is the most important lesson of youth sports: sportsmanship.  The results generated new resources and information available to help address this important issue head on.

The survey reveals that sportsmanship is considered among the most important lessons taught by youth sports.  Regrettably, approximately 50 percent of parents and coaches believe that sportsmanship has worsened in youth sports since they participated as children, while only 12 percent feel it has improved.  Yet, survey results suggest it may be their own behaviors that are contributing to this perception: 

  • 60 percent of respondents reported either witnessing or participating in negative or abusive sideline behavior
  • 26 percent of parents said they have witnessed a verbally abusive coach, and 16 percent of parents said they have witnessed a physical confrontation between parents
  • 55 percent of coaches have experienced parents yelling negatively at officials or their own kids, and two in five have experienced parents yelling negatively at other kids

Further, 75 percent of parents and coaches say that teaching sportsmanship is the responsibility of parents.  With 80 percent of parents responding to the survey claiming to play an active role in their child’s youth sports experience, the challenge isn’t parental involvement; it’s taking the time to instill the value of sportsmanship in their children.

“Growing up as a youth athlete, my coaches and parents were constantly using examples of poor behavior on the field as an opportunity to teach me about the importance of sportsmanship,” said actor Chris O’Donnell, a father of five and the Liberty Mutual Insurance Responsible Sports ambassador.  “Those lessons have stuck with me over the years, and now as a father of children involved in youth sports, I know the opportunity lies with us as parents to have the conversation and reinforce this important life lesson.”

Liberty Mutual Insurance Responsible Sports provides just the types of resources that parents need to have a meaningful discussion with their children about sportsmanship and other aspects of the youth sports experience that extend into everyday life:

  • Start with a simple question, “What Is Sportsmanship?" – focus conversation on abiding by rules and respecting opponents and officials and teammates
  • Explain that sportsmanship doesn’t have an off switch – reinforce that sportsmanship is important win or lose, even on the practice fields
  • Commit to Mom and Dad’s role in sportsmanship – express that your child’s effort and learning is more important than wins and losses and that leading by example is the best way to exhibit sportsmanship

“The value of sportsmanship is an essential part of developing youth athletes into responsible adults,” said Anthony Storm, senior vice president and Chief Marketing Officer, Liberty Mutual Personal Insurance. “Through this survey, we have pinpointed that sportsmanship is on the decline and there is a greater need for parents to reinforce this important life lesson.  Our Responsible Sports program provides the resources and tips to properly arm parents for this discussion.”

More results from the survey, as well as the wide range of resources, tools and information that Liberty Mutual Insurance Responsible Sports offers to support youth sports parents and coaches who help children succeed both on and off the field, can be found at  Parents and coaches can join the conversation by visiting the Responsible Sports Facebook page

About the Study

As a leading resource in youth sports, Liberty Mutual Responsible Sports program commissioned ORC International to conduct a national survey to uncover attitudes and perspectives towards youth sportsmanship in both parents and youth coaches.  2,000 parents and coaches of 7-12 year olds who participate in organized youth sports participated in the survey, resulting in a margin of error +/- 1.99%.

At Liberty Mutual Insurance, we constantly look for ways to celebrate the countless acts of responsibility and integrity shown by people every day. We created Responsible Sports, powered by Positive Coaching Alliance, as part of this belief to help ensure that our kids experience the best that sports have to offer in environments that promote and display good sportsmanship. We believe kids can learn valuable life lessons when coaches and parents come together to support winning on and off the ice.

©2014 Liberty Mutual Insurance

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