Good sportsmanship occurs when teammates, opponents, coaches, and officials treat each other with respect. Kids learn the basics of sportsmanship from the adults in their lives, especially their parents and their coaches. Kids who see adults behaving in a sportsmanlike way gradually come to understand that the real winners in sports are those who know how to persevere and to behave with dignity no matter where they place.
Parents can help their kids understand that good sportsmanship includes both small gestures and heroic efforts. It starts with something as simple as saying “hello” or waving at other teams before a competition, and includes acknowledging the talents of the other teams and their members good and accepting bad calls gracefully. Displaying good sportsmanship isn’t always easy. It can be tough to congratulate the opposing team after not placing where you felt you maybe should have, but the kids who learn how to do it will benefit in many ways.
Kids who bully or taunt others at competition or other forums like the internet aren’t likely to change their behavior when in the classroom or in social situations. In the same way, a child who practices good sportsmanship is likely to carry the respect and appreciation of other people into every other aspect of life.
Ask 6 or 7 year old who won and they may answer, “I think it was a tie.” It’s likely the question isn’t of any real interest at that age. Kids may be more eager to talk about the stunts they did or dance they performed. But as they move into older and more competitive leagues, kids become more focused on winning and can often forget to have fun. Without constant reminders and good examples, they may also forget what behavior is appropriate before, during, and after a competition.
Kids who have coaches who care only about being in first place and say that anything goes as long as they win, pick up the message that it’s OK to be bullies. If parents constantly pressure them to perform better or second-guess their every move, kids get the message that they’re only as good as their last good performance and they’ll try anything to make one.
Adults who emphasize good sportsmanship, however, see winning as just one of several goals they’d like their kids to achieve. They help young athletes take pride in their accomplishments and in their improving skills, so that the kids see themselves as winners, even if the score sheets do not show the numbers going in their favour.
The best coaches — and parents— encourage their kids to play fair, to have fun, and to concentrate on helping the team while polishing their own skills.
Fostering Good Sportsmanship Remember the saying “Actions speak louder than words“? That’s especially true when it comes to teaching your kids the basics of good sportsmanship. Your behavior during practices and competitions will influence them more than any pep talk or lecture you give them.
Finally, don’t forget to have fun!!