Q Our daughter, Lucy is eight years old and playing Little League baseball for the first time. My husband and I have been discussing how we want her to learn good sportsmanship behavior. We’ve been to some of her games where the parents yell at the officials, and the kids and parents are openly angry if they lose the game. What suggestions do you have for us?


A Good sportsmanship is when players and spectators are respectful to each other, the parents, coaches and officials. It’s when the rules of the game are followed. It’s helping a fallen player get up, whether that player is on your team or an opponent.  It’s taking pride in winning but accepting loss without drama.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Be a role model for good sportsmanship as described above. Children look to you for acceptable behavior.
  2. Don’t call coaches, players or officials derogatory names. Speak privately with the coach if you have a concern.
  3. Attend as many of your child’s games as you can.
  4. After a competition, don’t focus on winners and losers. Instead, you can ask your child: What do you think you did well during the game? Is there anything you wish you could do better? Be willing to work on those skills with your child.
  5. When your child shows good sportsmanship, acknowledge it. For example, “I like the way you said, ‘good game’ to your opponent.” Talk about good sportsmanship behavior that you observed from the opposing team as well.
  6. Let your child experience an honest win or loss when playing a game with her parents. This provides a chance to work on losing graciously.
  7. Another approach for parents who want to teach good sportsmanship is to get involved in a leadership role. For example, be a coach. Some kids come to the game already having good sportsmanship behavior (perhaps learned at home) while others need to be taught. Kids thrive when they are proud of their parents as in, “My dad is one of the coaches.”
  8. Talk with other parents about the sports organizations they like best in your city. Get an idea of whether any of these opportunities would work for your child. Learn what it will require of you.

In talking with parents, I’ve found that many have had to take their children off a team with poor sportsmanship behavior. As a parent, be willing to find another team with better behavior.


BettyRichardson, PhD, RN, CS, LPC, LMFT, is an Austin-based psychotherapist.

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