Taking the lead in sportsmanship

Ways to support your kids and teach what it means to be a good sport

Sportsmanship word cloud. Made with text only.

By Kimberly Blaker, July 2020 Issue.

We’ve all seen it — the parent standing on the sidelines criticizing the decisions made by coaches and officials, yelling at his own child for making a mistake, hurling rude remarks at the opposing team, or always placing blame. In some cases, these parents have even gotten into brawls.

What’s in winning and losing?

There’s no question, winning is rewarding and boosts self-esteem. However, well-meaning parents are sometimes so caught up in the competition that they lose sight of the real value of sports. Winning is not just being the victor of a game. It’s becoming the best all-around person one can be. Children who carry this with them will be the ones to prevail.

What’s in losing? Plenty. It teaches lessons in perseverance, humility, respect, and acceptance of defeat.

What does losing mean? It means to come out second best. Defeat is not a failure. A child or parent who walks away satisfied, whether victorious or not, is the real winner.

What else do sports offer? Opportunities to build friendships, lessons on the importance of rules, fairness and honesty, anger management and leadership skills, and how to work as a team. In short, sports teach valuable life principles that will be of immense value in the years to come.

Tips for supporting your child

Make the most of your child’s involvement by showing your support and what it means to be a good sport.

Avoid pointing out your child’s mistakes or criticizing them. This only serves to make kids feel worse. Your child is most likely already aware of the error.

Practice with your child, but don’t push. Offer pointers and demonstrate proper techniques, but allow mistakes to go without frequent correction.

Praise your child’s efforts.

Allow coaches and officials to do their jobs. If you feel an error was made, remember it’s a tough job, and we all make mistakes. Realize it’ll probably come out in the wash.

Cheer on your child and her team.

Don’t put down the other team’s players, and be courteous and respectful of the other team’s fans.

When talking with your child about a game, point out specific displays of sportsmanship that took place to show the difference between being a good sport and a poor one.

If your child isn’t enjoying the sport, don’t force him to stay in it. For many children, team sports aren’t the answer. Help find another activity or a solo sport that is more suited to him.

Set up a sportsmanship recognition program for your child’s team offering Certificates of Outstanding Sportsmanship to players who set examples of being a good sport. If a child is struggling with sportsmanship, look for opportunities to help her brush up on her skills, and reward accordingly as reinforcement.

Acknowledge and show interest in team members whose abilities don’t stand out.

Don’t place blame when the team loses.

Read It’s How You Play the Game: Reclaiming Sportsmanship and Honor by Bobby Newman.


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