Chris O’Donnell works to improve good sportsmanship

SHARE Chris O’Donnell works to improve good sportsmanship

Actor Chris O’Donnell is working to make kids “Play Positive” — boosting a program to improve sportsmanship in youth sports.

Not only is North Shore native Chris O’Donnell gearing up for the launch of the sixth season on Monday of his hit “NCIS: Los Angeles” series, but the actor and proud father of five, has teamed up with the Liberty Mutual insurance company to boost the “Play Positive” program — a plan to promote good sportsmanship in youth sports.

Q: Tell me about your new season of ‘NCIS: LA’?

A: Right now we’re a number of weeks into taping new episodes, but since the season hasn’t actually begun, it kind of feels like training camp — waiting for the real thing to begin. We’re picking up where the last season left off. Our guys were trapped in a submarine. My life-long dream, to be trapped in a submarine, but it’s going to be a fun season. I know they’re going to have a love interest for Callen [O’Donnell’s character], so that will be fun and something different for him.

As far as my character is concerned, the season will be more about trying to find out who he is. That’s a constant quest of self-discovery.

Q: Having spent time on many TV and movie sets, I know a lot of people behind the scenes don’t get much credit for a show’s success. I assume you feel the same way?

A: I do. We have a great writing staff, but we also have a great crew. We were very fortunate. When we got started we were able to pick up a lot of great people from crews on shows like ‘ER,’ and great shows like that. Our show runs like clockwork. On Friday mornings we still have a 7 or 8 a.m. call, as opposed to coming to work at 1 p.m., because we’ve gotten off schedule — and then you end up coming home at 4 a.m. Saturday.

It’s very manageable. We’ve gotten very efficient and there’s no nonsense on our set. Everyone’s there to work.

Q: Tell me about this “Play Positive” program? As the father of five kids who love sports, this seemed like a good fit for you.

A: I spend a lot of time every weekend moving around from one playing field to another. Growing up for me, sports was such a big deal. So many I heard that Liberty Mutual did this survey and found out that half the people they surveyed felt sportsmanship had declined in youth sports. It was so frustrating to hear that, but it’s something I have seen first hand as a coach and a volunteer.

That’s one of the big reasons we have our kids in sports in the first place — to teach them good sportsmanship.

So they’ve created this thing called the ‘Play Positive Pledge,’ and if you go to you click on the pledge and sign up your Little League team or your soccer team. Then you get your community to rally around and support them. The teams that get the most support and the most people clicking, are going to get $2,500 grants from Liberty Mutual Insurance, which is a large amount of money, if you’re out there with a Little League team that doesn’t have equipment or uniforms and that sort of thing.

So for me it was a win-win to get involved.

Q: Obviously, you have seen how this slippage in good sportsmanship is destructive for kids, right?

A: I think it’s important that we begin this dialogue. Because I do think we have gotten away from remembering why we’re in youth sports in the first place. You want to teach your kids to have respect for the rule of the game and the coaches and the referees and your fellow teammates — and your opponents.

I go to the field now and I’m just amazed by the behavior of some of the parents on the sidelines.

The lack of respect for their kids’ fellow teammates or the opponent team is appalling.

There’s a lot of people thinking that’s clearly all about them. … very self-absorbed behavior.

Q: It really is amazing who bad some parents act, isn’t it? Think of how that negatively impacts their kids.

A: I know. It’s embarrassing to see. Think how those kids must feel as they see their parents being escorted off the field because of what they’ve said, or their bad behavior at a 7-year-old’s soccer game!

Actions speak louder than words. That is not the right message to get across to your kids.

I remember playing every sport growing up, but I was always the last kid on the bench, because I was a tiny little kid. I was not the guy scoring the goals or the touchdowns, but I remember the coaches I had made a positive impact on me, because they made me feel like I was part of the team. That’s the stuff that sticks with you. It’s not about one person it’s a team effort and there are a lot of basic lessons there to be learned that will serve well in life.

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