“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” -Carl W. Buechner
I have been organizing a 6th grade basketball team for my youngest daughter this spring. I have seen my fair share of the antics and intensity that accompanies youth sports over many years as my boys have competed at high levels in everything from soccer to tennis to basketball. Today was a little YMCA league game for girls who are just learning to handle a ball and take the occasional free throw. I have never seen a coach demean and insult his team as I witnessed today.
His loathing criticism for the young girls in his charge was relentless and so disturbing that even our team was unable to play. As the game wore on, the constant yells poisoned the whole gym and the uncomfortable laughter from the stands at his ridiculous jeers turned acrid. The parents of these girls seemed to not let themselves hear their daughters being attacked and no one was looking at the crestfallen faces of these small girls. The energy in the gym grew more frenetic, and the girls on the other team played mean, which was the only thing he rewarded.
I know that it takes five positive comments to erase the power of a single negative criticism, and I couldn’t fathom how the parents of these girls would allow their children to be publicly humiliated game after game. The mother I was sitting near replied, “We knew what we were getting into, we just told the girls to not take it personally.” Not take it personally? It was personal for every person in the gym. Positivity research demonstrates repeatedly that a single negative personality has the power to completely destroy group process. No one is enriched or inspired to succeed when put on the end of blasting criticism.
Did the parents of these girls really not grasp that “the knives of negative criticism which people stick in us are just as sharp and deadly as those made of steel and borne by assassins…” What lesson do we teach our children when we allow this kind of behavior towards them to go on and sit by silently? Do we actually believe that the more it hurts, the better it is for us? Constant negativity makes a sewer out of life. Everyone in that gym was shaken by the abuse but I was the only one to go forward and tell him that I was going to report his monstrous behavior. He was a menace and listening to him made me sick. This person is too ill to work with anyone’s children.
Several people clapped and came up to give me support after I yelled back at him after the game ended. A few of the defensive mothers from the other side said it was none of my business and the girls liked him. Today I realized that sometimes the positivity quest is for me standing up against negativity. I refuse to just let it pass. The most positive act I can practice in the face of obscene negativity is to say no. Negativity of this nature does not belong in this world and certainly not in the context of young girls trying to learn how to have fun playing a game.