From the players that refuse to shake hands with the opposing team after a game, to parents screaming and belittling their child for missing what could have been a game saving catch, unsportsmanlike conduct rears its ugly head way more than it ever should, especially in youth sports.
So how can you ensure that your child doesn’t become the poster boy (or girl) for players behaving badly?
1. Be a Role Model
Whether watching sports on television or attending a live athletic event, cheering for your team and players without putting the other teams or players down is a great way to demonstrate good sportsmanship. Your own behavior as a role model, during games and practices will influence your child. Avoid demeaning coaches, referees and players and remember to share words of encouragement, not directives for play, from the sidelines.
2. Establish the Ground Rules
The person who holds the ultimate responsibility for teaching your child good sportsmanship is you. Let your child know your expectations when it comes to how he should treat other players. Regardless of what others do, let your child know it’s not acceptable to taunt a teammate for missing a play or to call opposing team members names.
3. Emphasize Teachable Moments
Take the opportunity to point out when someone shows good sportsmanship. Better yet, show it yourself by offering praise for a good play when its due, even if it’s not from the team you are cheering for.
4. Focus on Performance instead of Outcome
While winning is always a good goal to have, other goals like having fun, giving your best effort, playing as a team and exceeding personal playing goals are just as important.
5. Teach your Child how to Lose with Grace
Losing gracefully is a learned art and it is one best mastered in the early years. Give your child practical things he can do when the outcome isn’t what he wanted. Congratulating the other team, holding your head high and evaluating how you feel about your performance are life lessons that breed real winners.
It’s never easy to accept defeat, but those who learn to do it and do it well always come out on top. Encourage your children to have good sportsmanship and you’ll be proud of the type of athletes they become.