Nothing beats the feeling of joy that comes with winning a game. It is the culmination of hours spent in conditioning your body and practicing for that moment. Unfortuntely, such happy feelings can quickly be spoiled by poor sportsmanship.
Sports are meant to be constructive activities by their nature. When children participate in sports, they can build confidence in themselves and develop skills that will help them succeed in other areas of their lives. Poor sportsmanship can block those roads leading to positive growth.
Children view adults as role models in all areas of life – including sports. They mimic our behavior for good or for bad. If parents and coaches have a win-at-all-cost approach to sports, it takes the fun out of playing the game and teaches the wrong life lessons.
There a few simple things you can do as a coach or parent to promote good sportsmanship with your local youth team and help every kid become a sportsmanship MVP:
1. Play within the rules
Cheating should never be encouraged or tolerated. Integrity begins by learning to follow the rules. Educated your team regarding the rules and follow them in every circumstance. Playing by the rules isn’t just a nice idea. It reveals your true character.
2. Avoid taunting
Taunting and showboating after making a big play or winning the game only disrespects other teams and players. It is fine to celebrate a job well done, but encourage your athletes to find ways to celebrate that do not embarrass or anger opposing teams and players.
3. Respect the officials
Officials are there to protect players and create a safe environment. Let them do their jobs. Avoid lashing out at officials or berating them as a parent or coach. If you verbally attack an official because you don’t agree with their call, it will send a negative message to young athletes.
4. Build through positive reinforcement
Promote teamwork as a basic value. Encourage athletes to work together to achieve a common goal and let them all feel like they play an important part in the team’s success. Never verbally, physically or emotionally abuse young athletes. Never single out an athlete as the sole reason for success or failure. Create an environment where positive attitudes can prevail.
5. Focus on more than winning
Sports are about more than wins and losses. They are a good activity for refining important social skills, learning effective work habits and improving self-esteem. Avoid placing too much weight on winning. If a child does not win, they should never feel like it is the end of the world. Make sure is it as much about personal growth and having fun as earning a victory.
The value of sportsmanship can’t be discounted. Athletes who learn to be good sports at a young age will become better people for it. Learning sportsmanship starts with having a coach or parent willing to embrace and emphasize that concept.