Mental Health Parenting Wellness

Three Ways to Influence Good Sportsmanship in Your Child

April 25, 2016

Three Ways to Influence Good Sportsmanship in Your Child

Well, it is that time of year where spring youth sports are beginning or have already started. Those of us who have children playing spring sports know all too well how the weather can change dramatically from day to day. One day it can be 72 degrees and sunny and the next day it can be 55 degrees and windy. It is also a time where we are cheering and encouraging on our children to perform to their best abilities. Cheering and encouraging are the keywords here. I have witnessed a variety of behaviors that parents display at their children’s sporting events; ranging from yelling encouraging statements to disparaging remarks about the umpires/referees and even their own children. I have seen parents take their child aside right after the game and yell at them for a mistake that they made during the game. I have even seen a coach delay the pace of a game so he can yell at his own child for being “absent-minded.”

We, adults, need to take a step back, really look and see and tell the truth about our behaviors at our children’s sporting contests. The best way we can teach our children good sportsmanship is by displaying good sportsmanship in the stands. If we are to look at this through the social learning theory, our children behave in ways that others behave around them. If a child witnesses his/her parent yelling at the official on the field, then they may do the same when they think a bad call was made. This does not just apply to the child’s parent but children can model behavior that other unrelated adults are displaying. Therefore, if a group of parents is all berating the official, this sends a strong message to the children that it is okay to behave in this manner.

Here are a few ways that we can help influence good sportsmanship to our children and even your children’s teammates:

Cheer for everyone

Do not just cheer for your child, but cheer for everyone out on the field of play. Yes, that means even the other team’s players. When a great play is made, it should not matter what team that child plays for. A good mindset for watching our children’s games is that we want to see a good game and good plays. Enjoy the contest and struggle of the sport and not just the wins. Yes, it is great to see our children be part of the winning team, but we can also enjoy a great game even at the expense of a loss.

Be Supportive of the Coach

Do not make any negative criticisms about the coach in your child’s presence or even in the presence of other parents. For example, if you have a concern about the team’s behavior or the lack of improvement of your child, talk to the coach in private and express your concerns appropriately and respectfully. The majority of the coaches are volunteers and they are taking their own personal time to try to teach your child a sport. Be mindful of this point.

Do not blame the officials or another teammate for the loss

This just teaches our children that when we lose, it is someone else’s fault. Yes, your child may not have made a mistake during the game, but he/she is part of a team. One of the best lines in sports is “We win as a team and we lose as a team.” Athletics can be a great medium to teach responsibility and how to cope with disappointment. No one wins 100% of the time, but I can assure you that 100% of people have had the feeling of disappointment. If we model how to accept and cope with disappointment appropriately, we can build resiliency in our children.

With just these three simple ways, we can teach our children good sportsmanship. With how competitive youth sports have become, I think we, as a society, sometimes forget about the fun aspect of sports. This can be the fourth way to show good sportsmanship, show your children how to have fun at games. When children do not play as well as they had hoped, they can be the hardest on themselves. I have witnessed these young athletes cry after a hard-fought loss, unprovoked by an upset coach or angry parent. When you witness the disappointment on your children’s face, just put your arm around them and tell them, “I really love watching you play.” Remember, it is just a game.

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