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Sportsmanship When Having Lost

My children have been participating in chess tournaments for a while now. When they enter one, we plan to stay for the entire event; we don’t bail 20 minutes early (before the awards) if they didn’t win one that day. MANY MANY parents do this! (“Oh, you didn’t win – let’s go.”) I’d put the parents who leave early if their kids didn’t win something into eHell, since it’s not sending the kids a good message. I’d consider it bad sportsmanship. Whether my kids win or lose, we stay until the end and applaud the winners. It’s not as fun for the winners if the crowd of 300 dwindles to 40 just before the awards. I understand that people are busy, but it’s only 20 more minutes, and these are 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. events — 20 minutes isn’t _that_ much longer. It certainly doesn’t make my children feel badly to stay for the awards if they didn’t win; if anything, it encourages and excites them — “Someday that will be me!” They have come home after not winning and started working hard so they could win next time — and then they actually did win the next time, so it was a good life lesson all around.

The tournaments I am talking about are in our town, where everyone lives less then 30 minutes away from the site. But last year, our family went to a tournament in a city 90 minutes away, and yes, we still stayed to the end, even though my children didn’t win anything. I wouldn’t have felt like they had fully participated unless they had attended through to the end. Same goes for music competitions — we stay for the awards no matter who won (or didn’t). I just think it’s good form. And they DO get joy from applauding their friends. Many other parents seem to agree — we have a crowd of “regulars” who always stay to the end and cheer for each other’s kids — they all have their winning days and not-winning days, and they take it all in stride.

What do you all think?

(And these awards go 1st to 5th place, per grade level K-12, so about 60 awards are given out to 300 kids. It’s not like it’s just 1 award for 300 kids!) 1111-13

{ 78 comments… add one }
  • Kate November 13, 2013, 7:27 pm

    It depends how these award ceremonies go, I must admit.
    Not an award ceremony, but a school play situation. It was my youngest brother’s last primary school play, he was 11 and had been at the school since he was 4, and me and my brother had been through the same school, so the whole family went to watch. There were several performances, and we watched them all, and applauded at the end of each one.
    Than, after everyone had finished, the headmistress stepped up to ask for a round of applause for everyone. The room obliged.
    She than proceeded to go through every group and all the important individuals, and remind us what they had done that night, and request a second round of applause.
    The performances took maybe 45 minutes to an hour in total. The headmistress’ need to recognise every single person took another 35 minutes.
    I’ll be honest, it’s given me a dread of all award and recognition type events after since.

  • Anonymous November 13, 2013, 8:39 pm

    I think there are two issues at play here. On the one hand, yes, there’s the etiquette and good sportsmanship of staying for the whole event, and seeing others perform/compete/get awards even after your part of the event (or your loved one’s part of the event) is finished. However, on the other hand, there’s the logistical issue of places like schools, and dance studios, organizing mega recitals for every age/class/grade level, from preschool to high school graduation age. I like the idea of breaking up the recitals into age/class categories, but then, that doesn’t work for parents of more than one child, or who have one or more kids who are in more than one class. I’ve never been to an event where the gap between finishing and awards is hours long, but in that case, yeah, it’s probably okay to leave a bit early, and I agree that the awards should be done in batches, after each group has finished. It wouldn’t be a perfect solution for everyone, but it’d at least help, I think.

  • The Elf November 13, 2013, 9:07 pm

    Very well said, Thistlebird. I agree – it isn’t the individuals leaving, who we can give the benefit of the doubt to that they have good reasons. It’s the mass exodus that is the problem.

  • Anonymous November 13, 2013, 9:09 pm

    @ACR–Nobody is “entitled to an audience,” but events like concerts, dance recitals, karate or gymnastics demonstrations, or other similar live performances, have a sort of etiquette unto themselves–the whole show is a “package deal,” and the only polite time to leave is after it’s over, or, failing that, at intermission. Team sports are a bit more relaxed, because it’s less noticeable when parents leave a noisy hockey arena, or outdoor soccer field, than if they walk out of a crowded-but-quiet auditorium during the winter concert. Nobody has to go to these events in the first place, and for that matter, enrolling your child in “spectator sport” type activities is optional as well. However, once you’re at an event like that, it’s polite to stay until the end. That’s not teaching a child that he or she is “entitled to an audience”; it’s teaching the child proper live performance etiquette, and that everyone should respect the time and effort invested by all the performers, whether it’s the beginner band playing Jolly Old St. Nick, or the advanced band playing Gustav Holst’s “First Suite in E flat.” Actually, looking back, I only had about a year between the former and the latter, which is another good reason–if you encourage your child in the activity (which includes showing/feigning interest in the activity as a whole, and not just your own child’s performance), then that child will be more inclined to practice and improve at it, which means the performances will get better. Yes, there’ll still be beginning students, but if there’s an overall culture of encouraging everyone, then there’ll be more kids inclined to stick with the activity, so there’ll be a more solid base of advanced students around to mentor and help the newbies.

  • Sally November 13, 2013, 9:15 pm

    Yeah it’s annoying to some people but it’s really not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Honestly that amount of time spent at a chess tournament sounds like pure hell to me anyway, an extra 20 minutes away from it would feel like 2 hours. People have stuff to do and don’t always get a chance to explain their reasoning, it’s no biggie.

  • AnaMaria November 13, 2013, 10:22 pm

    It’s one thing if you have a legit reason for leaving- no need to keep a tired, hungry toddler awake so she can watch her older brother’s classmates win awards! But just to leave because your kid didn’t win sends a horrible message, just as the OP said!

    I am not much of a competitive athlete but I am a pageant competitor. Recently, I represented my state in a prestigious international pageant (very focused on community service- the evening gowns and blinged out jewelry were just the icing on the cake!), and, during our final rehearsal, a director mentioned that every year he’s seen at least one contestant not make the top 10, head backstage, grab her stuff and leave without sticking around for the crowning. The director says he always wants to yell after that girl, “This is WHY you’re not in the top 10!” How can you call yourself a role model or a “queen” when you can’t even support your sister-queens?

    Afterwards, I was asked to come judge another pageant in my state that included several age divisions, and, after the top 10 were announced and the other contestants sat down in the audience to watch the crowning, a mother suddenly came up and pulled her daughter out of her seat, saying “we’re leaving!” As she dragged her out, the daughter was whispering loudly, “NO! NO! Mom, I want to see who wins!!” My heart went out to that poor girl- I hope her mother learns some good sportsmanship and sets a better example in the future!

  • hakayama November 13, 2013, 10:26 pm


    If more people kept that maxim in mind, there would be fewer unhappy events described above.
    How much do I value my life’s fabric? As a greenhorn in the US, and having no idea of what it entailed, I attended my graduation from HS. Some time later, I happily blew off two other instances of pomp and ceremony by having the BA and MA diplomas mailed to me.
    However, just recently, I accepted a neighbor’s invitation to two middle and high school concerts. Talk about boredom and tedium! This was a great reminder for me not to take the path of least resistance, but to “stand my ground” and defend my life as it were…
    In my opinion, the organizers of those awful art and sports marathons, are totally inconsiderate of the well-being of soooooo many adults AND children. They seem to lose sight of the purpose of the activity they’re involved in, and instead they’re focused on their programs and agendas, without attention to the logistics of family schedules. Schedules that include meals, rest, naps for the little ones… Oh, but the show must go on!

  • hakayama November 13, 2013, 10:28 pm

    P.S.: sorry, I forgot the smileys after the second paragraph. 😉 😉

  • Kimstu November 13, 2013, 11:33 pm

    @mark: “My time is valuable. I’ve got stuff to do and places to be. If it is truly only going to take 10 more minutes I’ll usually stay, but if it is going to drag on. I’m going to leave.
    I think it is unreasonable to expect someone to devote 2-3 hours of their afternoon to watching someone else’s kids compete/play/perform/dance/whatever and their kids part is only 5 minutes.”

    Is that attitude really what you want your child to be learning as part of their performing-arts training, though? “This show is only important because I’m in it and it’s fine to ignore the parts of it that don’t involve me”? “My time is too valuable and my errands too important for me to bother supporting my fellow students and performers with my attention and applause”?

    Everybody’s time is valuable, and everybody’s got other things to do. That doesn’t make it acceptable to treat a live student recital/performance like a TV channel-surfing session where you can just watch the bits you particularly want to see. I guarantee you that your child will pick up on your attitude of impatient and selfish entitlement, and it will ultimately not be positive for his/her experience as a performer.

    @mark: “When the event is well planned and goes only and hour or so, I don’t mind watching the whole event.”

    Then it sounds like it would be helpful for you to talk to your child’s performing-arts teacher(s) about how to schedule recitals/performances that are manageable in length and frequency while also providing opportunities for all the students to perform.

    I get it that nobody’s got time to spend 2-3 hours every weekend or even every month watching student performers. But if these 2-3 hour events you complain about are happening only once or twice a year, then I think parents should factor in that time commitment as part of the requirements for supporting their child in studying the performing arts.

    If even that is too big a drain on your schedule, then just don’t attend the annual recital at all. You may have to cope with some hurt feelings on the part of your child, but I think that’s better than implicitly teaching them that other people’s contributions to their performance events are merely an unimportant nuisance that it’s okay to ignore.

  • Anonymous November 14, 2013, 12:04 am

    Oh, here’s another work-around: One of the music studios in town, where I’m purportedly employed as a clarinet teacher (but haven’t had a student there yet) does “mini-recitals” every month, on a volunteer basis. So, they’re informal, they’re completely optional, and since the kids who attend music lessons there are usually escorted by their parents, that means that the kids and parents can decide amongst themselves which recitals to participate in, and which ones to pass on. That way, they know that they won’t have the time-crunch of Bobby’s violin recital falling on the same evening as Sarah’s school play. This system also keeps the recitals fairly short, so that nobody is stuck there for more than maybe an hour or so.

  • Rebecca November 14, 2013, 1:36 am

    I agree with the OP 100%.

    Someone upthread said that staying at a chess tournament would be boring. That may be, but not if you’re in it. If you’re in the tournament it’s because chess is your thing. And except under extenuating circumstances (toddler having a hissy fit, etc etc) absolutely you should stay to applaud the winners. To do otherwise just perpetuates an “it’s all about meeeeeee!!!” attitude.

  • toia November 14, 2013, 2:02 am

    I really can’t remember a time in school I wasn’t involved in extra curricular activities. My mother also ran a home day care till I was 10 so there where a lot of events attended for the day care kids as well. When you are in a team sport or extra curricular that has a smaller or closer group setting to me it’s kind of rude to leave early. Especially when younger kids are involved. Like I said I was in activities all my time at school in high school missing an awards presentation is a little more understandable at that age you have more responsibilities, it’s still rude but teens don’t budget time well(friends schools work and sometimes jobs on top of after school activities is a lot). However an adult with kids should be making better judgment calls you should be teaching you kids sportsmanship, and team spirit. Also patience and a sense of community. You can’t start those lessons too soon, in my opinion. Staying for an entire soccer, softball, gymnastics or whatever presentation shouldn’t be too much to ask. Leaving early should be a rare occurrence, not a normal event. When you join a team you are expected to participate fully, this isn’t something adults should have to be told.

  • mark November 14, 2013, 2:03 am


    I appreciate your point of view and if that works for you then that’s great, I simply disagree. I see no obligation to sit out some overly long poorly planned event. And I don’t see that as teaching my children a bad lesson, to the contrary, I think it teaches them to value their time and make good use of it. And to not be afraid to reclaim their time if it is being wasted. Also I really don’t see my attitude as any more self-entitled than someone demanding I remain.

    As to discussing this with the event organizer. I suppose I could do that. It however strikes me as a exercise in near total futility. And as we have already established, I don’t like wasting my time. (Actually I do I just want to waste it in different ways.) And if I were the event organizer I wouldn’t want to change how things were done anyways. The event organizer has it set up the way the way they want and why would they want to change it because someone like me is whining about it. The only thing I’m interested in is that they understand if they don’t keep the event to a reasonable length that it’s ok for people to leave when the part they are interested in is over. And not demand that everyone stick it out to the end like some glorious last stand.

  • Rap November 14, 2013, 8:49 am

    “In my opinion, the organizers of those awful art and sports marathons, are totally inconsiderate of the well-being of soooooo many adults AND children. They seem to lose sight of the purpose of the activity they’re involved in, and instead they’re focused on their programs and agendas, without attention to the logistics of family schedules. Schedules that include meals, rest, naps for the little ones… Oh, but the show must go on”

    I definetely understand how tedius some of these ceremonies are. Frankly I only attended my college graduation because my parents made a special effort to attend. And frankly all day sporting events that wait until the very end to award winners are just making everyone wait around – I did karate and the tournements I went to awarded trophies at the end of each age group entirely so that the folks with younger kids didn’t have to wait around for hours.

    On the other hand, I don’t know many ballet and musical or theatrical events (aside from my once a year all school musical concert horror that logisticaly wouldn’t work at a larger school) that run longer than two – three hours or that are constantly happening every other weekend. If you can’t or won’t schedule around a relatively rare event for rest, meals and naps for the little ones, then don’t commit to attending and don’t put your kids in the activity

  • Huh November 14, 2013, 9:08 am

    @Shalamar – Evil me would be tempted to tell the teacher who wanted you to stay even with your overtired and fussy toddler, “OK, we will sit back down, but I’m telling Youngest here to cry as loud as they want!”

    Several other posters talking about people leaving early at professional concerts reminded me of this, I once went to a comedy show that was going to be filmed for a TV special/DVD type thing. When the comedian came out, he said, “We are going to film the ending now so the cameras can cut away and there will still be a whole audience here.” And they did. And yeah, a decent bit of the audience was gone before the end of the show.

  • lkb November 14, 2013, 9:36 am

    Reading the rest of the posts here reminded me of my elementary school dance class days: The recitals had multiple performances over at least two days. At the times we were not performing our one dance (per class), we were required to remain sequestered in a back room for the entire show. Sure, we learned to bring books, games, toys, homework etc. and whatever snacks that would not damage our makeup or costumes. We were not allowed to leave.

    (So much for being inspired by the performances of the senior students.)

    And for what? So we could all rush up on stage at the finale showering hugs and kisses on the program director, whom most of us had not seen or even heard of until the dress rehearsal where she was yelling at everybody. And to whom our parents had already paid a considerable amount of money over the past year.) We may have done a short closing number but 300 kids all on stage lip synching and dancing to a song we just learned at dress rehearsal the day before did not make for a compelling reason to stay, imho.

    I do agree with the general line of the responses here: staying for awards does show grace and good sportsmanship. However, everyone has their limits.

  • Anonymous November 14, 2013, 1:59 pm

    >>The event organizer has it set up the way the way they want and why would they want to change it because someone like me is whining about it.<<

    Actually, Mark, that's not true. If you did some research, and found a venue that organized its performances/demonstrations/tournaments/whatever in a more reasonable way, like "my" music studio, then you could always suggest that format to the event organizers, and if they balk, you could say that you're considering enrolling your kids at the music/dance/whatever venue that organizes its recitals in small, relatively frequent, bite-sized chunks. Actually, this isn't germane to etiquette, but as someone who's taken, and taught, private music lessons, I believe that the small, frequent, informal performances are actually better for music/dance/whatever students of all ages, because there's less at stake, so it's not some big mega huge deal that ramps up the anxiety and stage fright to unmanageable heights, it gets the students used to performing, because they can sign up as many times as they like, and since it's informal, the focus is on the performance at hand, rather than on finding the perfect recital outfit–instead, the kids just wear their regular clothes, or their birthday party/Sunday best type clothes that they already have. When I was in university, we did weekly studio recitals, and everyone in second year and up had to do at least one per semester (first years were encouraged to perform as well, but not required), and it really helped people to prepare for the big, scary, First Solo Recital that came up in third year. So, while I don't think it's polite to leave in the middle of an event just because your loved one has finished, I do agree that mega-events don't work for a lot of reasons, including the participants themselves.

  • Wow November 14, 2013, 8:13 pm

    As someone who was in dance classes for 25+ years, I didn’t really want to sit around and watch the awards ceremony for everyone at the end.

    When I was in elementary (grammar) school, it was a long day, school, dinner, getting ready for the performance, the performance itself, by the end of the day it was a long one… and after 4 nights of recitals, I didn’t feel it was necessary to watch the same people being called up for their awards night after night for 20+ years.

    It’s not about being a sore loser or having a bad attitude, but more about not feeling like I needed to feed into the same egos night after night when I had other things I had to do… Especially when I got into High School and college, because now work was added on top of school duties.

  • LadyStormwing November 14, 2013, 10:03 pm

    I didn’t read every comment, so if I repeat something, my apologies.

    On the one hand, yes, if the awards are going to recognize *every* participant and go on for another hour, I can almost understand wanting to leave. Almost. However, one signed up for the compitition, one must learn that said compitition has a beginning, middle, and end- that includes the awards ceremony. I have been to dance recitals that just dragged on because every child was recognized, but stayed because even though my class didn’t “win”, my parents understood the value of seeing a job through to the end.

    As a teen, our band and chorus used to have their semi-annual concerts on the same night. The bands would perform, we would have a brief intermission, and then the choirs would go on. Problem was, everyone had to be there at the same time, but the band kids and their parents would leave at intermission and the audience would dwindle to about a third of what it had been. It was rude of the parents and cruel to the choral students, who worked just as hard on their pieces. Eventually, the choral director had enough and scheduled the choral concerts on a separate night.

    I did always think my dance studio had a good way of doing it. The recital was separated into two parts. The younger students, usually grades 4 and below, had their performances first. After that time, they could go into the audience with their parents or go home, whatever Mom and Dad thought best. Then the older students- grades 5 to adult- would have their performance. In my 16 years, I don’t think there was ever a complaint with that system. 🙂

  • Tracy November 15, 2013, 11:58 am

    First… chess is a spectator sport? Really?

    Roslyn said: “Wow. I can’t be bothered to be bored to watch your kid, but you have to be there to watch mine.”

    You’re assuming the parents who leave would be annoyed if the tables were turned and you left first. That’s probably not true.

    Ladystormwing said: “As a teen, our band and chorus used to have their semi-annual concerts on the same night. The bands would perform, we would have a brief intermission, and then the choirs would go on. Problem was, everyone had to be there at the same time, but the band kids and their parents would leave at intermission and the audience would dwindle to about a third of what it had been. It was rude of the parents and cruel to the choral students, who worked just as hard on their pieces. Eventually, the choral director had enough and scheduled the choral concerts on a separate night.”

    But why should the band parents be required to sit through a choral concert that they weren’t interested in, simply because it was combined with something they DID want to see? Isn’t it equally rude to say “you can only see your child perform if you agree to sit through a performance of a completely separate group?”

    When my daughter was in dance, none of the students were allowed to leave until the entire performance was over – they were sequestered backstage. And yes, as someone pointed out, it means they don’t actually get to watch the other performances. Now that she’s in band, we sit through the entire concert, even though it includes one or two groups other than her own. But sitting through an entire day of a chess tournament? And then being lambasted for not staying for the awards? No, I’m sorry, that’s ridiculous.

  • chechina November 15, 2013, 6:47 pm

    OP, you’ve probably won something over the years. When you did, you probably thought “Yay!”, “What should I say?”, “I hope I don’t trip”, or “Where’s that person I love?… Oh, there they are.”

    You probably did not think, “Why are there not more people here to witness this?! Those jerks!””

    So I say unless the winner will be looking for your face in the audience, feel free to go.

  • Snowy November 15, 2013, 8:37 pm

    Not to mention, if you stay to the end, kids won’t learn that if they want to go home early, all they have to do is throw the game–something that’s not fair to the winner, the loser, or anyone else three.

  • ddwwylm November 18, 2013, 6:14 am

    I think my daughter’s dance studio handles this situation pretty well. If they had to have every single class in one performance, I bet it would be 5-6 hours. Instead, they spilt it up into several shows. 2 at winter recital, and 4 at spring recital. They intersperse beginners with the advanced, and they make sure that every family with more than one child has at least 1 show where every single dance their children are in is scheduled. That makes it about 2 hours, and I enjoy watching the show, I can appreciate the antics of the littles and also the beauty of the older experienced dancers. It still ends up being a long day for the parent, because once your kid is in the advanced classes, they’re usually scheduled for more than one show, but I and our extended family only watch the performance with all the dances, I usually help backstage on the other shows.
    When my daughter was about 5, she attended gymnastics at a different studio, and they ran their yearly show terribly. This place had gymnastics, dance, karate and cheer. They did have 2 shows, but they still ended up being about 3-4 hours long, and the place did not plan well, and there were not enough seats for all the spectators. When the karate parents ended up all leaving mass exodus after the karate performance (before medals), I remember thinking it was rude, but also kind of glad because it meant I finally got a seat, and then wished their performance had been before my daughters so I could have seen her performance better. I only signed her up that one year, after the horrible experience we had, I won’t sign her up again.

  • Anonymous November 19, 2013, 1:00 am

    @DDWLYM–That’s another thing. My music studio can do monthly mini-recitals, because it’s a fairly small studio. Mega-studios that teach EVERYTHING, are naturally going to have larger performances, because if they did the monthly mini-recital thing, they’d still get a disproportionate number of students wanting to perform at Christmas time and towards the end of the school year. At “my” studio, that still happens, but there are few enough students that it doesn’t result in a marathon recital. I think this is one of those things where you have to pick and choose–do you want an uber-facility, where you can drop off multiple kids for multiple different activities, or do you want shorter recitals? There’s really no way to have both, unless you don’t mind going to recitals on multiple nights, if you have kids enrolled in more than one type of class at that studio.

  • Molly November 21, 2013, 6:27 am

    Would you really care if someone left 20 minutes early instead of watching your kid get his award? I feel like that would say more about you than the person who went home.

  • DanaJ November 21, 2013, 5:31 pm

    Molly – I don’t think the point is about receiving accolades, it’s about giving them. Just like teaching your children the importance of “Thank You” notes, it’s important for your children to learn good sportsmanship and how to properly acknowledge a well-deserved win by an opponent.

    If you leave early, it just means that the only thing that’s important is your own trophy, rather than acknowleding and supporting the hard work of your peers and sharing in their moment. In other words, it’s important for kids to learn “It’s not all about you.” Celebrating another’s victory and demonstrating that goodwill is a valuable lesson – it’s a good thing to teach people how to say: “Wow, good job!”

  • livvy17 November 22, 2013, 9:45 am

    I don’t know – shouldn’t the focus really be on teaching the child to have respect for themself and pride in the hard work they put in to achieve the result? Insisting that there be mass accolades as well is probably not a great character builder for the child, and may set him/her up for disappointment later in life, where we don’t have accomplishment ceremonies weekly.

  • Enna November 23, 2013, 5:28 am

    @ Sally: clearly chess is not your cup of tea. But for those participating in the tournament it must be so they should if they can stay until the end unless they have other commitments. It also shows children how to respect winners of hard work and also patience. Twenty minutes isn’t that long in comparsion to the duration of the tournament. If the children don’t want to wait becasuse they don’t like chess then the parents should not be making them do it.

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