1. Nobody likes to lose. It’s painful and sometimes heartbreaking. It is also every bit as important as winning. A strong character does not come from never experiencing sorrow. Character is built in life’s tough moments. How we handle ourselves during those times says a great deal about what kind of person we are. Proper sportsmanship teaches good behavior and builds strong character. Here are some ways to instill sportsmanship in your child.

    2. Do Not Be That Parent

      We all know that parent. The one who screams at the refs from the bleachers. The parent who curses out the coach in front of his child because his kid didn't get played. The one who ridicules the players who aren’t as gifted as others. Set the example for your child. Unless you have something nice to say, don't say anything at all. Win or lose, offer high praise for the effort. Thank the coaches for their time, which is usually volunteered. Sportsmanship starts with the parent.

    3. Win with Dignity

      Winning is easy. It’s fun. It can also breed arrogance and bad behavior like taunting and mocking the losing team.  Not very appealing traits in a person. Show your child to win with dignity—to shake the opposing players’ hands after the game and say, "Good game." To be humble in their success.

    4. Losing with Grace

      As stated in the opening paragraph, losing is as important as winning. Without a good dose of rain there would be no beautiful flowers and green plants. The same goes with human life. Support your child at these times with encouragement and praise. Offer to help them practice more. Gently give tips on things that might need to be corrected. Emphasize positive actions as opposed to negative feelings. Hold your head high and be as humble in defeat as in victory.

    5. Respect the Game

      The showboat. The hot dog. Yes, they can be entertaining and sometimes funny.  Unless you are the Harlem Globetrotters, it really doesn’t have a place in organized sports.  Teach your kids it’s ok to be happy. To celebrate. To enjoy themselves...because it is only a game. But they need to do so with respect for the game and the other players. Walter Payton and Barry Sanders were great examples of how to deeply love and play a sport with class, heart and style.

    6. Follow the Rules

      Remember how John McEnroe used to go ballistic when a call didn’t go his way? He became famous for his ridiculous temper more than his skill as a tennis player. Rules are in place to make the game fair. To keep order. Teach your child to follow them and to respect those that are there to implement them. Be a good sport and acknowledge that not every call will go your way.

    7. Point Out Examples

      Nothing is better than watching a sporting event with your child. They are great times and memories. We can also use those moments to point out examples of both bad and good sportsmanship. You are sure to see both. Visual examples are always an excellent learning tool.

    8. Include Your Teammates

      No person is an island. You cannot do it all alone. If your child is very talented at a particular sport, that is great. Teach him/her to help the other kids who might not be as strong. To include them and to use the abilities they bring to the benefit of the team. One child might be a great ball handler. Another might play excellent defensive. Rare is the child who excels at all facets of the game. It’s a team and all parts are required to win.

    9. Don’t Let Your Child Win Every Time

      It’s hard not to do so. They are so adorable and you don’t want to see them sad. You are playing checkers and you let her win every single time. Playing the great basketball game of H-O-R-S-E with your son and you intentionally miss the shot that would give him an “E.”  As tough as it is, you need to win the game at least sometimes. How can they learn how to lose and be a good sport if they never do? They will be getting better and beating you on their own soon enough anyway.

    10. Encourage Strong Effort

      Having good sportsmanship also means having a strong work ethic. “Practice? We’re talking about practice?” was Allen Iverson’s infamous outburst after being drilled for skipping practice. Nobody is above the team. Even the biggest stars. Teach your children to always give their best effort. At practice as well as the game. To earn the respect of the other players and coaches. Anything less is not acceptable and should not be tolerated.

    11. It’s Just A Game Sports are only games. They are for fun. Teach your child the bigger picture...the perspective that it's a blessing to be out playing games and enjoying life. Teach them to appreciate it. It's hard to be anything but a great sport when you are humbled and thankful for just the opportunity to play.

Last Modified on October 7, 2010