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Teaching Kids Good Sportsmanship Both On and Off The Field

My nephew burst out into tears when his basketball shot didn’t go in. I wish I could have climbed under the bleachers. What started out as a fun Sunday afternoon of basketball turned out to be embarrassing and disappointing. While my nephew was having his emotional meltdown, he threw his water bottle for added drama.

There is nothing worse than seeing a kid who is a poor sport. Kids off the field may excel in music or academics but their accomplishments are quickly tarnished by their poor demeanor on the field. A “win at any cost” mentality is a posture that puts aside good manners, camaraderie and teamwork. Kids should learn how to win AND lose gracefully both on and off the field.

Parents can help this effort by offering the following support:

  1. Monitor your own response – after a losing effort provide positive feedback by asking – “Did you congratulate the other team?” or “Did you say good game to your teammates?”
  2. Identify and address bad behavior – any time your child exhibits bad sportsmanship, call him/her out on it. Bring it to their attention and let them know that their attitude is inappropriate.
  3. Stress good sportsmanship – create a family sportsmanship motto and use it after each activity – “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” “If you can’t play nicely, then don’t play.”
  4. Teach how to lose – “Let’s try again tomorrow” will set the tone for when your child doesn’t win.
  5. Emphasize encouragement – good sports and teammates should support and encourage each other. Teach your child to use words such as “good job”, “great try” and “awesome effort” will help to create a positive atmosphere.