As with any important lessons concerning behaviour, helping children understand and exhibit good sportsmanship when they are playing games and sports is key as they grow older. Understanding how to be a “good sport” is one of the biggest life lessons children can learn and carry with them as they set out in life, start a career and form new relationships. The younger you start, the easier the lessons will be to put into play as they age.
Teaching children about good sportsmanship has to happen over time, but there are ways to make sure they understand your points and put their new skills into place. These include:
Staying focused on playing the game well instead of projecting anger on to teammates, referees or coaches shows good sportsmanship. If a child is frustrated, angry or starts projecting bad language at anyone throughout/after the game, this should be addressed immediately. Staying peaceful and showing respect for all players shows good sportsmanship.
Giving everyone a chance
When children are playing sports at a young age, it is important that both highly skilled and not such confident players all get the same opportunity to have fun playing together. Players, parents and coaches all have a role to play here in making sure that all teammates get equal opportunity to enjoy themselves and play together. This can also teach other more skilled children on the same team to grow patience, sportsmanship and offer support for their less confident teammates.
Make sure when children are playing sport, they don’t try to cheat or alter the rules to fit them. This can be a bad habit to get into and doesn’t support good sportsmanship. Cheating or lying in sports is unacceptable and doesn’t allow everyone to have a fair chance at winning.
Respecting other teams
Whether their team wins or loses, it is important that children show admiration for the effort of the other team when playing games. If their team wins, make sure to teach the children not to brag or ‘rub it in’ to the other team, showing good manners and sportsmanship.
If the opposing team wins, it is important for them to accept defeat, acknowledge their hard work and move on without being bitter.
When playing in teams, it works best when each player supports the team. Making sure children praise teammates when something goes well, or supports them when something goes bad, instead of criticising their performance instils good sportsmanship.
Parents can model this behaviour when their children are playing games, by congratulating them for things they have done well, even if they have made some mistakes and not played as well as they had hoped. These actions will then be translated to teammates on the field.
Make sure when your children are playing sports, they are aware of the importance of listening to referees and coaches, following their decision when they are on the field and involved in team activities. Having trust in coaches and referee’s decisions shows good sportsmanship.
Finishing with a handshake
Good sportsmen know that when you end a game, you should finish with a positive attitude, whether they have won or not. Any anger, threatening words or bad attitude a child is projecting is not acceptable during the game or at the end of the game. By highlighting the consequences of this when it happens, it will help players to remain calm and positive.