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Photo of children playing soccerGood sportsmanship is an important skill to learn.  However, as with most values, our children do not usually learn it by just talking about it.  Usually they “catch it by our actions or the actions of others.”  Thus, we as parents and adults need to model the good sportsmanship behavior we want our children to show.

With many children playing fall sports, it is important they learn the basics of good sportsmanship.  Parents can best teach their children to be good sports by:

  • Modeling good behavior. This means showing respect to others on and off the field, including members of the other team. You can applaud the efforts of all players on both teams. If other parents are showing unsportsmanlike behavior, explain to your child what is happening and help them understand what appropriate sportsmanship is.
  • Praising your child for what they did right.  Even if they did not do well, find something they did better than last time and praise them for it, or say “You’ll do better next time.”  College athletes were asked what their parents said that made them feel great during or after a game, and  “I love to watch you play!” had the most responses.  This is something everyone can say.
  • Explaining to your child what they should have done when you notice your child displaying unsportsmanlike behavior. Watch to see if they correct themselves in the same or similar situation in the future.  If they do, commend them.
  • Avoiding the use of negative words or inappropriate language when the other team makes a good play or comes on the field. And, not making fun of any child.
  • Respecting authority figures including the coach and umpire or referee. If you disagree with a call or something happens that is unfair, work through official channels.  Always act in a respectful and noncritical manner.  Model self-control and help your children learn self-control.  Many children have been embarrassed by the actions of their parent.
  • Encouraging fair competition. Competition can make us want to do our best.  Everyone on the team should get a chance to play. Parents should not encourage, Photo of children sport teams handshaking after a sports game.support or condone cheating or dishonesty – especially for the sake of winning.  A team should win due to hard work and good performance. Ensure your child      understands that losing does not mean “bad” and winning does not always mean “good.”  Games should end with a handshake between the teams.

Be sure your child knows you love them, no matter how they performed on the field.  Most children will not become professional players.  Children should have fun playing their sports, not feel pressured or so focused on winning they don’t enjoy the game.  Team sports help a child learn sportsmanship and how to be a team member.  Having a positive attitude, appreciating the contributions of others, and working as part of a team are characteristics that will help your child now and in the future.

Author:  Pat Brinkman, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fayette County

Reviewer: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County

References:

Stanford Children’s Health.  (2018). Teaching Children Good Sportsmanship  Available at https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=teaching-children-good-sportsmanship-1-4524

TeensHealth from Nemours.  (2014).   Sportsmanship.  Available at  https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/sportsmanship.html

Trautner.  (2016). Good Sportsmanship is Important to Youth Development – Part 1.  Available at  http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/good_sportsmanship_is_important_in_youth_development_part_1

Trautner. (2016).  Good Sportsmanship is Important in Youth Development- Part 2 .  Available at http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/good_sportsmanship_is_important_in_youth_development_part_2

 

 

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