We’ve all seen it—the parent who stands on the sidelines criticizing the decisions made by coaches and officials; the one who yells at his own child when she makes a mistake; the fan who hurls rude remarks to the opposing team and the parent who always places blame. Some of us have even had the misfortune of witnessing brawls.
There’s no question: winning is rewarding and boosts self-esteem. But well-meaning parents sometimes are so caught up in the competitiveness that they lose sight of the real value of sports.
Winning is not just being the victor of a game. It’s becoming the best all around person one can be. Children who carry this with them will be the ones to prevail.
What’s the value in losing? Plenty. It teaches lessons in perseverance, humility, respect and acceptance of defeat. Losing means coming out second best. Defeat is not failure. A child or parent who walks away satisfied—whether victorious or not—is the true winner.
Sports activities offer opportunities to build friendships and learn lessons on the importance of rules, fairness and honesty, anger management and leadership skills and how to work as a team. In short, they teach important principles of life that will be of immense value in the years to come.
Support Your Child’s Sportsmanship
- Make the most of your child’s involvement by showing your support and what it means to be a good sport.
- Avoid pointing out your child’s mistakes or criticizing. This only serves to make kids feel worse. Your child is most likely already aware of the mistake.
- Practice with your child, but don’t push. Offer pointers and demonstrate proper techniques, but allow mistakes to go without frequent correction. Praise your child’s efforts.
- Allow coaches and officials to do their jobs. If you feel an error was made, remember: it’s a tough job, and we all make mistakes. Realize it will probably work out in the end.
- Cheer on your child and her team.
- Don’t put down the other team’s players, and be courteous and respectful of the other team’s parents and fans.
- When talking with your child about a game, point out specific displays of sportsmanship that took place to show the difference between being a good sport and poor one.
- If your child isn’t enjoying the sport, don’t force him to stay in it. For many children, team sports aren’t the answer. Help find another activity or a solo sport that is more suited to him.
- Set up a sportsmanship recognition program for your child’s team, offering Good Sports awards to players who set examples of good sportsmanship. If a child is struggling with sportsmanship, look for opportunities to help her brush up on her skills and reward her accordingly as reinforcement.
- Acknowledge and show interest in team members whose abilities don’t stand out.
- Don’t place blame when the team loses.
- Read “It’s How You Play the Game: Reclaiming Sportsmanship and Honor” by Bobby Newman.
Kimberly Blaker is an author and freelance writer. Her articles have appeared in more than 200 publications throughout the U.S.