Teaching Good Sportsmanship

In sports, emotions can sometimes run high — for both the child athlete, and the parent. How do you teach your child to be a good sport?

To begin with, be what you want to see. Your child watches you and learns from imitating you, so if YOU practice good sportsmanship, it with will go a long way in helping your child. In fact, good sportsmanship is a winning strategy. It teaches your child to take control of his feelings and deliberately override his impulses.

By teaching your child how to get along with others socially, you are really giving him tools and the skills for life. Studies show that, as important as scholastic achievement is as a measure for success, so is getting along with others. The one thing successful people have in common, in fact, is that a good personality helps them manage others, as well as themselves. Further teaching your child not to be reactive, but rather, to see the big picture, helps him experience another’s point of view and encourages empathy and respect.

Most importantly, good sportsmanship is knowing the rules. This is true when playing a game of sports or in the game of life. Good self-esteem can inoculate your child against insecurity and allows your child to be more thoughtful in his reactions to others. A child with good self-esteem may be more likely to focus, more likely to be polite, listen to the opinions of others, not play the blame game, be generous in support of others, and fair. All of these characteristics are necessary for good sportsmanship.

As a parent whose child is involved in any kind of sports activity, hobby, or competition, be positive — not only about your child, but about the other team, including their coaches. When the competition is finished, and one team or the other has won, it is important to teach your child to congratulate the other side if they’ve won, and shake hands with the other side if they’ve lost… and when your child gets that bad call, teach him to have grace under fire. The old adage, “it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game,” applauds the effort that all children exhibit when they come out to participate… and that’s a good thing.

Remember, a sport is a game. Don’t pressure your children. It should be fun. Competitions teach many skills, open the door to new relationships and help your child grow emotionally, through learning teamwork, pushing past his effort, and moving out of his comfort zone — all good attitudes necessary for achievement. In the final analysis, keep cool and remember that your child is watching you.