Bird Brown: Even in the most heated battles, sports should be fun

Last weekend my club teams were competing in the MSYSA President’s Cup. As we made our way through the round robin play against some of the best teams in the state at our level, the games got more and more intense, the play more physical, and the talking between the players on the field and on the bench more vocal.

With so many of our Carroll County athletes being multi-sport talented and our team being no different as it is filled with some of the county’s best players not only in soccer but in basketball, wrestling, track, lacrosse and baseball. At the end of one of our games, with us holding on to a 2-1 lead, a player from our opponent took advantage of an opening in our defense and ripped a left footed shot to the far corner, “upper 90,” from about 25 yards out to tie the game as time ran out.


In celebration, the player who scored a beautiful goal ran to the corner of the field, and — forgive me here, because I would never have been able to do this in my life — did some kind of full hand spring into a round off back flip, and landed it perfectly.

Our players were devastated that after this long 80-minute game without the benefit of a substitute, playing with only enough to play the game and holding on to the lead for most of the second half, we only came away with a point for our draw.

But you couldn’t deny the quality of the goal the SAC player scored and even more impressed with his gymnastic routine following the goal.

Instead of being offended or upset at the opponent, we found ourselves cheering for not only the cracker of a goal he had just scored, but also his celebration routine because of his passion for the moment and the enjoyment he had sharing that moment with his teammates.

After the game our players who had battled so hard for so long and both come away with a disappointing tie, high-fived each other occasionally bringing it in for a hug, one of whom even said, “thanks for the chirping, we loved it.”

Neither team wanted to leave with a loss or a tie, but we also respected the opponent with which we had just shared a very competitive battle.

Passion is so much a part of sports that you can’t separate one from the other. Without the emotion and passion of a player giving it her or his all in the heat of battle, it no longer is competition. It no longer is recreation. It no longer is fun.

Isn’t that why we all entered the world of sports first as a young, wide-eyed player, then as parent-coaches, or even professional coaches, to have fun? To work as a team to compete with our opponent in the heat of competition but enough to respect them when the game is over? But mostly we want to get involved in a sport as a player to share the experiences with our friends or as parents to spend time with our own kids and their friends.

Part of that experience we share is the celebration of the accomplishment of the team’s effort that ends in a touchdown, double play, goal, or basket. We work hard at practice to be ready for when game day comes around. As a coach you design quality practice sessions to get your team ready and as a player you sacrifice a few hours a week of your personal time to improve your skills so that they can be used when the opportunity presents itself on game day.

What I don’t understand is when coaches or parents or even teammates attempt to take that passion away from players to celebrate their hard work and dedication to the sport by placing restrictions on their celebrations.

To frown upon a player’s celebration of accomplishing the goal (pun intended) that he/she’s worked all work to prepare for at the direction of the coaching staff just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

Being happy or excited or even proud of what you and the team have accomplished is a good thing, right? A friend I used to coach with would always take great exception when people would criticize our team for being good and would reply, “if you don’t like it, get better.”

We worked hard to be as good as we could be, why not celebrate our accomplishments?

One of the things I love the most about professional soccer is the celebrations that ensue immediately following a goal that is a celebration of the team’s accomplishment in the heat of battle. The NFL finally wised up and now allows for rehearsed celebrations and are the better product as a result.


Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines fame once said, “Fun is one of the most important — and underrated — ingredients in any successful venture. If you're not having fun, then it's probably time to call it quits and try something else.”

Aren’t sports supposed to be fun?