As parents, we’ve encouraged our kids to participate in sports because we know of the physical, social, and emotional benefits. We know that the values they learn participating in sports will stay with them well into adulthood. And one of the best lessons that kids take away from sports is how to be a good sport.
When we see other parents at games yell at the coach from the sideline, insult the other players, or criticize the decisions made by the officials, we think about how competition can really bring out the worst in people. But more importantly, we recognize the attitude and bad behavior in sports that we don’t want our kids to have.
There are many lessons that kids will naturally learn from participating in sports. Good sportsmanship however, is a trait that needs to be instilled and can only be taught through good coaching and good parenting.
As parents and coaches, young athletes need role models for good sportsmanship. When they see their coach lose their cool over losing, kids will develop that same win-at-all-costs mentality. And it’s the same when a parent gives them a hard time about a missed free throw, fumble, or strike-out.
When young athletes are led to believe that winning is everything, they start to perceive competition differently. The opposing team begins to look like their enemy. They start to consider a defeat as failure. Essentially, the fun in sports is replaced with an obsession to win.
By teaching your kids the value of good sportsmanship, you show them how to accept loss graciously and to respect the other team for their well-deserved win. You also teach them how not to be boastful winners.
Through sports, kids have the opportunity to learn how to be thankful, respectful, and humble. They learn how to manage their anger, respect the rules, to be fair and honest.
For parents, teach your kids good sportsmanship by praising their efforts rather than criticizing their flaws. Don’t point out their mistakes; offer suggestions on another approach. When it comes to sports performance, wait for them to ask for your advice.
Point out displays of good sportsmanship that you witness at games you see live or on TV. Also point out signs of bad sportsmanship such as those who are boastful about their win or don’t shake the other team’s’ hands after the game. Don’t ever make fun of the other team or their fans. When their team loses, don’t blame their defeat on the other team or officials.
Explain why it’s important to respect the officials and coaches who are just doing their jobs. Above all, teach them to play with integrity and explain why cheating and breaking the rules just to win is never considered a real win. They may enjoy it for the moment, but ultimately, they will know in their hearts that the win was not deserved.