Sports are brilliant. Physical exercise, socialization, improved vision, healthier weight, increased self-confidence… There’s almost no limit to sports’ benefits way beyond running around a field or pitch. But while sports are important to young people, it’s vital to teach your kids how to lose and win well. It’s also crucial to teach our young athletes to have better sportsmanship.
Good sportsmanship can be a tricky term to define. But we all understand when someone is or is not a good sport. Help your teenagers win without boasting. Respect their opponents and teammates. And, lose gracefully so they can grow up well-rounded and more capable of dealing with disappointment (and triumphs).
Remember, in life, sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, and sometimes keeping score isn’t the point. By reinforcing these values in a game, your kids will be prepared for everything the future has in store.
For more on this topic, check out the full Sports collection
Lead by Example
Although they probably won’t admit it, teenagers are heavily influenced by the adults they know and respect. This includes their parents, teachers, and sports coach. With this in mind, it’s vital to keep your own competitiveness under control when it comes to the next high school soccer game!
If you think the ref made a mistake, keep it to yourself. If you’re upset that another kid seemed to trip yours, take yourself away from the bleachers for 5. Cheer for your kid’s team, but don’t badmouth their opponents. Exercising respect and control is the best way to teach your kids how to be good sports.
Dr. Joel Fish, author of 101 Ways to Be a Terrific Sports Parent, reminds parents to emphasize things in their control and to not worry too much about what ESPN is saying. Teach your kid “the importance of playing by the rules, shaking the hands of the opponent, and helping him up if he falls.” Also, remind them that even if the other team isn’t displaying good sportsmanship, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be the better person.
Practicing at home with your kids can also help demonstrate good sportsmanship in your own backyard. Try picking up a Lacrosse Rebounder (like the ones from Victorem), a soccer goal, or a basketball hoop and get out with your teen. They’ll appreciate the time spent with you and learn a lot from how you showcase sportsmanship (even if they don’t say it; they are a teenager after all!).
[Read: 10 Things Parents Can Do To Help Their Athlete]
Meet the Coach
No matter what sport your kid is interested in, it’s always worth meeting the coach to determine what principles they value and what they’ll be teaching your kids.
The following three questions are a great way to establish what sort of coach you’re getting. There isn’t necessarily a right answer, but it’s a good starting point to ensure you find a coach who will respect your priorities.
- How will they teach sportsmanship? Look for how they deal with trash-talking, how they respect opponents, and their policies on keeping score.
- How is playing time determined? Are players picked based on skill, seniority, how hard they work in practice, or is it divided evenly amongst the players?
- What are the team goals? Is the coach totally focused on winning, or are they there to introduce new players to the sport? Are they focused on physical activity? Is it all about social interaction? What are the team’s priorities?
[Read: What You Need to Know Before Registration]
Generally, kids can be broken down into four main personality types, with one dominating feature. Figuring out what personality type your teen fits into will make communicating good sportsmanship values a little easier.
Emotional personality types may take losing as a personal hit. So you’ll want to focus on teaching them strategies for calming down and lightening up. Counting to 10, deep breaths, and taking a brisk walk can help improve an emotional type’s sportsmanship.
This personality type strives for perfection. While there’s nothing wrong with that, watch it doesn’t progress into perfectionism. Help your conscientious teens focus on “areas for improvement” rather than “things they did badly.”
Aggressive kids need clear consequences and boundaries. Give them clear expectations of what is/isn’t good sportsmanship and follow through if rules are broken.
Social types are heavily influenced by their peers, which can be used to your advantage in sportsmanship. Stress how essential it is to cooperate with teammates and brainstorm ways team members can help each other when someone feels down or frustrated.
Team Sports Matter
There are so many wonderful ways of getting your children involved in sports, and teaching them about the important elements that play a role in this. A big part of the parenting process is to make sure you teach your children about how to have better sportsmanship. This is one of the best ways of being able to give your children valuable life lessons, and this is something you should make the most of right now. You need to focus on the best ways of giving your children these lessons, and team sports are an excellent way of being able to achieve this.
So, you need to come up with some of the best ways of helping you work on this moving forward. Boarding school sports and weekend team sports are excellent ways of being able to achieve and improve your child’s teamwork skills. There are so many factors to keep in mind when you are going to be able to help your teenager learn about teamwork, sports, and how they can take these lessons forward to help them grow and thrive in later life.
Benefits of Teaching Better Sportsmanship
Tailoring the focus to your kids’ personality will massively help them figure out the benefits of good sportsmanship. It will also enable them to grow into well-rounded adults ready to deal with the triumphs and challenges of daily life.
Remember, you won’t always get what you want, and sometimes you’ll be disappointed in the outcome. But that doesn’t mean you should mistreat other people or take it out on your ‘opponent’ when they out-perform you. Instead, focus on what they can learn from others and the additional benefits of sport – not just winning or losing.
For more on this topic, check out the full Sports collection