10 Ways of Teaching Good Sportsmanship to Your Children

7. Teach your child to respect the other team’s effort.

In the field of competition, respect for opponents is critical to good sportsmanship. Hence, applauding the efforts of the other team is a critical value that you can teach your children – no matter whether they are on the winning or losing team. If an opponent outperforms your child, teach your son to accept it, learn from it, and offer no excuses and move on. If your child outperforms another, teach him to enjoy the victory, but to never boast, mock, or minimize the opponent’s effort and skill.

10. Exhibit sportsmanship yourself, and teach your children about great model athletes.

One of the best ways to teach your children about good sportsmanship, is to practice it yourself. Many of the principles above can be applied at home and in your daily interaction with family members. Your example will have a profound influence.

It also is important to introduce your children to top-notch, professional athletes who serve as excellent role models. Players such as Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Both of these athletes captured the hearts of a nation a couple of years ago when they pursued the 60-home run mark with indelible character and great sportsmanship. And there’s Kurt Warner, the quarterback of the St. Louis Rams, who demonstrated impeccable integrity and humility last season as he led his team to a Super Bowl victory. It is athletes like these who can show our children that sportsmanship is not a lost art, but rather a necessary attribute in trying to reach the top of one’s game.

8. Teach your child to praise your teammate’s efforts.

Everybody loves to receive a pat on the back or a compliment when playing sports. If your child learns to praise fellow players during both successes as well as setbacks, he will play a vital role on any team. (On a similar note, no one likes to have a teammate that only complains and bickers about everyone’s performance.) As a parent, you too can praise your child after sporting events not only on the basis of performance, but for being a team player.

9. Teach your child to end the game smoothly, and accept the results.

Good sportsmanship entails emphasizing the joy and excitement of participating, rather than the final outcome. After each game you might ask your child, “What did you do for the team?”

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Unfortunately, in recent years the traditional value of sportsmanship has almost become a lost art in the professional, collegiate, high school and even youth level. Winning has instead taken over as the number one value. This is not surprising, however, as winning or losing can literally mean the difference between earning millions of dollars or not.

In the midst of all this, it seems doubly important that we recommit ourselves to guiding our youth, reminding them what sportsmanship is all about, rewarding them for demonstrating good sportsmanship and showing, by our example, that sportsmanship is still alive and valued in sports today. Listed below is a 10-item checklist that will help in teaching your children good sportsmanship.

1. Teach them to learn and abide by the rules of the game.

One aspect of good sportsmanship is knowing the rules of the game and playing by them. If a child decides to participate in a given sport, it is his responsibility to learn not only how to play but also how to play according to the rules that have been established. As a parent, this provides a great invitation to interact with your children. Nothing can be as satisfying as a father teaching his young son the game of baseball.

2. Teach your child to avoid arguments with coaches, officials and opponents.

One of the most common abuses of sportsmanship is when players argue verbally and/or physically assault officials and opposing team members. Not only does this oftentimes make a player look silly and “out of control,” but it also forces the player to lose his or her focus on the game. In fact, it is not uncommon to see a player get emotionally or physically upset, and then make an error in the very next inning or play. The key here is to teach your children that when they experience anger or frustration during a game, they need to re-channel their energy and focus on a desired outcome such as kicking a field goal or making a tough catch.

A recent example of athletes exemplifying opposite poles on the sportsmanship spectrum occurred during this past World Series when New York Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens fired a broken bat in frustration at Mike Piazza, the opposing batter from the New York Mets. Rather than charging the mound and starting a brawl, Piazza kept his cool and allowed the game to continue. (Editor’s Note: How was Piazza treated for this rare and noble display of manly restraint? He was excoriated in the New York papers the next day for being a wimp.)

3. Teach your child to share in the responsibilities of the team.

As we all know, a key to good sportsmanship is being a positive influence on your teammates. This includes encouraging players who may be struggling in their performance to accepting defeat graciously. On the opposite end, not tolerating poor conduct from fellow players helps encourage other team members to maintain control. Remember, a player’s behavior reflects on the team in general.

4. Teach your child to encourage and support less talented players.

If your child is a gifted athlete, it is especially important to teach her the value of providing extra encouragement and support to less talented players. Since top-notch players often serve as the natural leaders of their teams, they can often serve as vital instruments in boosting the esteem and performance levels of their fellow players. This value can and should be exercised not only on league teams, but also during recess sports.

5. Teach your child to always play fair, with honesty and integrity.

Honesty and integrity should be the two hallmarks of any athlete. Good sportsmanship means playing honestly and fairly at all times, and never indulging in any type of cheating. Taking performance-enhancing drugs, using illegal equipment, and committing “dirty fouls” are all ways in which one can abuse the enjoyment and spirit of a particular sport. Only losers resort to these methods.

6. Teach your child to follow the directions of the coach.

Listening to and following the directions of the coach is another attribute of sportsmanship. Since the coach is the designated leader, it is important that all the players support his decisions, so that the team can work as one unit – not as 20 different members. It is true, however, that oftentimes we will find ourselves in disagreement with our coaches. In situations like this, you can teach your children to discuss their disagreements privately, in a civil manner, away from the public eye.

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