sportsmanship

09Dec02

or, the post that killed my mac… i was stunned, i was impressed, then i was dismayed. my day at the tournament started by having to organize, then sit through, about 75 kids ages 8-14 perform forms. it was exhaustively dull for me, and pretty much that bad for the kids too. i couldn’t even turn around to watch the san shou behind me. no matter, because the judges and the kids kept me busy. some of the kids knew their stuff and performed well, some did not. either way the kids accepted their scores graciously, and then rejoined the students where they were welcomed without criticism. once a division was finished and places were announced, the winners did not gloat, the others did not pout. they all posed for their parents and everyone was happy enough.

i spent the next chunk of my time at the san shou ring. the fights were fierce, as this is one of the few kinds of sanctioned fights where you can hit your opponent in the head and win by knockout. before the fight, no matter how psyched up the opponents were, they were always reasonable to each other. (less can be said of a few of the coaches, but most were equally if not more decent). the crowd, while cheering on their faves, was never rude. they’d all react equally if a big move worked. if someone went down, everyone cheered when he got up. no one was the bad guy. after the fights, most fighters hugged, seriously. all of them acknowledged their opponents, as well as coaches and corner teams. it was a display of sportsmanship unparalleled in my american experience.

the adults who fought were great sports, the ones who didn’t however… after a nice break, i started workin as a ring manager for kids 12-17 sparring. it’s “light sparring” so kids are scored by number of hits, not by how hard they hit. once again the kids were pretty good sports. they weren’t the good sports that the san shou fighters were, but they always showed respect for, and even friendship with, their opponents. but the adults were starting to get a little more agressive. parents started yelling. nothing awful, but not always nice either. i heard one adult yelling “saca la, saca la.” (hit her, hit her) and then “no. no toque la cara”(no, not in the face) it was sad and funny all at once. parents basically yelled at their kids to hit. which isn’t so bad considering it’s sparring, so i didn’t mind. but in between bouts i heard what really got me mad. sparring rules, scoring and placement are all a kind of funny thing. it’s not as simple as you might think. it certainly isn’t as simple as the parents thought. so many of them decided to take their child’s placement into their own hands. i heard them argue with judges after we presented the rankings. i even heard them argue with school masters about their child being robbed of a place. meanwhile the kids were nowhere to be seen. they were probly happy enough to have competed.

i had heard teacher pals of mine tell stories of parents protesting their child’s grades, but i had never seen anything like it. it was sad. very sad. i wanted to sit these parents down and tell them “your kids have obviously learned alot about sportsmanship here, i wish you would’ve learned half as much”

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