Sports is about personal development and growth. They help us discover our strengths and weaknesses and develop them into life’s successes. Sports help us learn to deal with defeat and improve to be better for the next day. And so, therefore, it seems that trash-talking goes against the grain and devalues the development that sports intend to create. Trash talking can seem like it is playful. However, you only need a little spark to start a fire that can turn something playful into something harmful.
Ethics is a big part of the sport, but trash-talking often develops the ego and leads to poor sportsmanship. And, this can trickle into other aspects of life. For example, trash-talking on the field can lead to teasing and bullying in school. It can also lead to talking back to teachers and elders. Trash talking can empower the child’s ego, thinking it is ok to do to whomever at any time. In any event, trash-talking leads to worsening a player’s behavior and performance, giver and recipient.
Trash Talk Leads to Violence
Here is a perfect example of how insults and trash-talking go wrong. Take Zidane, for example, in the 2006 World Cup, where he delivered a head butt to the chest of the Italian soccer player, Materazzi. Materrazzi called Zidane a terrorist and Zidane retaliated using an act of violence. Materazzi called him a terrorist because Zidane was born in France, but his family is Algerian. Zidane’s Mom and Dad moved to France before the start of the Algerian War. However, despite this, how do we know what insults will go too far and too much? How do we know what words will make an impact to create an explosive emotional result?
Trash Talking and the Inconceivable
Kwane Doster was a 21-year-old running back who played for Vanderbilt University. Kwane was shot to death after stopping at a sandwich shop with two friends leaving from a nightclub on a Sunday after midnight in Tampa. Kane’s friends had a verbal exchange with three other men about whose car was better outside the nightclub. They all unexpectedly met at a stoplight and exchanged insulting words again. As they went on their way, Kwane and his friends went to a sandwich shop. In the parking lot, the other antagonist group met up with Kwane and his friends once again. One of the men from the other car got out and fired a shot at Kwane’s friend’s vehicle. Kwane just happened to be sitting in the back seat where the shot was fired, killing him. No one else was injured.
You see how something so trivial like trash talk can cause something so inconceivable like death, the death of someone not involved in the word exchange.
To-Do or Not to Do
The youth in sport are more sensitive. Kids lack life experience, judgment, and emotional skills that sports are trying to build for them. In youth sports, it should not be allowed because kids have not developed maturity yet. And in most incidences, it leads to a road of bad behavior and ego that will diminish their performance and behavior. Those who play great don’t think about being great. They control the ego. Those who think they are great to have ego controlling them. I won’t name names, but it is easy to see in professional sports today if you are a victim of trash talk, smile and nod and give a thumbs up. You kill ignorance with kindness and a smile.
Trash talking goes against what it means to be a professional. Silence is gold and develops reverence. When a trash talker knows they can’t get under your skin, it gets under theirs. Like I was taught when I was young, the bigger the mouth, the louder the words, the worse the player and more insecure. So, never run your mouth and put the scores on the board.
Integrity is Essential
Sportsmanship represents the qualities of respect, honesty, and fair play. In contrast, trash talk creates and leads to the opposite; disrespect and arrogance. The two do not integrate nor coincide to produce life qualities or personal development. Trash talk promotes disrespect and can elicit an angered response like with Zidane and the death of Kwane.
Rather than being a positive aspect of the sport, trash talk is negative. What seems to be playful is many times not and leads to escalation. The little things you say tend to step over more and more boundaries, leading to more harsh and offensive words. What we practice, we become, and the repetition of this practice widens. For example, saying “you suck” develops and lowers and devalues a player’s personality and behavior, leading to more significant insults of someone’s race or nationality. It will happen with trash talking. It will eventually go too far.
Today, society is more polarized than ever. Kids and adults are at an intensity of 8 out of 10 rather than a relaxed score of 2. The “depends” variable is essential. This means that depending on the time and situations we are in, you can allow it to happen. Trash talk has been swept under the rug for years. But is now time to stop provoking, protect an athletes’ integrity, and understand the value of sportsmanship and respect.
It is ok if you want to pound the path forward and succeed athletically. But athletes need to have respect. In the youth, there is a nurturing process occurring. In professionals, it is a waste of energy. Remember, the path you choose is what develops, positive or negative; evolution always occurs, for good and bad.
Degrading a player on the field can lead to doing it off the field in life. In the long run, insults produce invisible scars that are unnoticed, pushing an athlete to the point of no return. If your kids are unconsciously learning and discovering through sports, then trash-talking interferes with their discovery.