Teaching Our Kids to be Good Sports
I wasn’t wired to be uber competitive so thankfully, being a “bad sport” isn’t something I’ve passed on to my own little athletes. That being said, I’ve had a few Soccer Mom moments that I’ve tried very hard to forget… I’ve also seen my lion’s share of bad sportsmanship throughout the years.
While “winning isn’t everything” may just sound like an annoying cliché designed to make the losers feel better, I honestly believe in that motto. I’m a firm believer that a true athlete isn’t measured by how much they love themselves in the sport, but instead by how much they love the sport in them – and that sportsmanship really makes the sport.
Teaching good sportsmanship to our little ones begins with us. We have to lead by example, and we accomplish this by teaching them to develop realistic goals and expectations when it comes to competition. If they learn to expect only positive outcomes from every competitive situation, they won’t discover that losing is an integral part of winning...and more importantly, of risk-taking.
Here’s how you build a solid foundation of good sportsmanship in your kids:
Winning Isn’t Everything
It’s only one thing in the grand scheme of things. After a game or practice, we need to place the emphasis on whether our kids had fun, rather than instantly focusing on winning.
Let Them Lose
As tempting as it is to let our kids win all the games, they seriously need to learn that it’s okay to lose. Don’t make a big deal out of it – losing is a normal part of life. And go ahead give it your all, it’s probably been a while since you won a game of Trouble…
Don’t Be a Sore Loser
As parents, we should always teach by example. If we don’t want our little ones to become sore losers, then we should teach them the art of losing gracefully. The next time you lose, say something like, “Oh well, you win some and you lose some.” This’ll show our kids that we have a healthy attitude about losing, and that we are looking ahead.
Find Those Teachable Moments
Watching sports events with our kids is a great way to teach them what good sportsmanship looks like… And what it doesn’t! Seriously, the next time you watch a basketball game on TV, make it a point to spot out the sore losers, and ask your kids how they could have handled it much better.
Be a Good Role Model
If we expect our children to be good sports, then we have to act like one. Talking negatively about a coach or other players sends out a mixed message to our kid. Rather than criticizing what the coach did wrong or how the other players could have done better, we need to direct the focus on moving forward, looking for positive takeaways.
There Is No “I’ in Team
The cornerstone of good sportsmanship lies in teaching our children the importance of being a team player. We have to remind them that their individual behavior can affect the entire team as a whole. Therefore, practicing good sportsmanship is one of the most important things that they can do for their team.
It’s Not about You
The point of getting our kids involved in some kind of a sport or activity shouldn’t be to live out our dreams through them, but rather, to teach them the importance of working well with others and having fun. Children involved in a fair and impartial sporting program have the opportunity to build their self-esteem, as well as learn the value of resilience. We have to always be clear about why our child is playing a sport… And never let it be about us.
Try and Try Again
It’s healthy to allow our children to experiment with different sports. We may have our heart set on them playing soccer, but it’s really not about us. We have to be supportive of the different sports that they’re interested in and give them the opportunity to explore them all.
We should never compare our little ones to other players. Everyone has different talents and skills when it comes to athleticism. When we point out how great so-and-so played today, we are sending out the message that our own child isn’t as good. Overtime, that will undermine their confidence or self-esteem. Always keep the focus on our own player and their talents.
Winning Isn’t Always Succeeding
Sure, everyone wants to win. But remember that every game has to have both a winner and a loser. When we teach our kids that success is not measured by winning the game, but by working with others and focusing on the joy of playing, then win or lose, the game was worth it!
Do you think it's important to teach kids to be good sports or is competition your priority?