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Brand Journalism

How to teach your child the value of good sportsmanship
In partnership with Game Changers 

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Sportsmanship is emphasizing being fair, following the honor system and respecting the rules all while still focusing on being successful. In youth sports these values are often overshadowed by physical wellness. But equally prioritizing sportsmanship is foundational to developing healthy social skills. 

Teaching young athletes to focus on personal improvement and skill mastery can frame sports as a positive environment where working hard, teamwork and being a good person are rewarded. This also helps reduce cheating and toxic attitudes both on and off the field. 
These are big concepts for an upset, crying kid who just lost a tournament! That’s why it’s important to reiterate

Youth sports can teach lessons that last a lifetime and build children’s character into adulthood. Good sportsmanship in the face of defeat or victory encompasses many of these lessons. But how do parents instill these values in their children?

When children respect everyone on the field, they’ll always be winners regardless of the score. Encourage their team to high-five the opponents after every game.

What is good sportsmanship?

sportsmanship concepts on the field and off the field, win or lose, so children can learn from their actions every day. Good sports are likely to take those values of mutual respect and dignity into every aspect of their lives. 

Defining values of good sportsmanship

To teach kids good sportsmanship, specific values have to be identified and encouraged:
 

  • Respect! The top thing for your child is to learn respect. This is a blanket principle for all aspects of sports (and life). Respect the other team and don’t trash talk - being rude won’t change the score! Respect coaches and their directions, and if your child disagrees with the instruction, encourage a calm conversation with the coaches after the game. This applies to officials and any of their questionable calls, too! Respect teammates by cheering for them when they’re successful and lifting them up when they’ve fallen. This last one is underrated: children should also respect themselves.
     

  • Play their best. It’s hard for kids to not beat themselves up when they’ve lost or push themselves too hard in the future to compensate for losses. That’s why it’s important to teach children to go out, play their best every time and take pride in their efforts. That passion will show through their actions, and the fun they have will be what they remember most - not the outcome of the game.
     

  • Play fair. Being honest and having integrity are some of the most integral qualities your child can take into the world. Therefore it’s of the utmost importance to emphasize playing fairly and cleanly. Remind your child that cheating can result in others not wanting to play with him or her because it makes the teammates look untrustworthy, too. Whenever an opponent or other teammate isn’t playing fair, praise your child for doing his or her part to be a good sport.
     

  • Everyone deserves a chance to play. Team sports couldn’t exist without a team of players, so your child must be willing to sit out sometimes and let others have their turn. Even if your child (or yourself) feels him or her are a better player, every child should be given the chance to grow and have fun on the field. After all there couldn’t be team sports without the rest of the team!
     

  • Cheer for teammates. Cultivating an environment where fun and friendship are possible only when the kids support each other. Your child should say “good try” after every teammate’s turn, regardless of the outcome. Remind children to treat their teammates the same way they would want to be treated. Celebrate each other when they do well, and lift one another up in the face of defeat. This positivity should also extend to your child and his or her teammates can also help during defeat or frustration.
     

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Celebrate your children and their team’s hard-work after every game. Teaching your kid the value of respect and good sportsmanship starts with you!

Encourage humble winners

Prioritizing winning can cause teams to win at any cost by playing dirty. This behavior reflects poorly on your children and their team. Being overly focused on winning can result in that ruthless mentality being brought into other social situations. That’s a toxic value to carry into the real world. Reiterate that as long as your child is having fun, that is the most important thing. When the team is victorious, celebrate that! Use this as an opportunity to teach your child how to be humble while celebrating accomplishments. Shake hands with the other team. Show them the same respect your child would want in the face of losing. Additionally, don’t rub it in - that’s just making a sweet victory into sour grapes. Sports should be fun for everyone, win or lose!

Improve sore losers

Losing is never easy for anyone, but the nature of any sports game is someone will win and someone will lose. But it speaks to you and your child’s character how this disappointment is handled. This is a difficult concept for children to grapple with, especially when they're young. After a loss it’s expected your kid will shed some tears, and that’s OK - even professional athletes cry sometimes after a close game. However this shouldn’t be allowed to escalate into a full-blown tantrum or a

screaming match with teammates or opponents. Help your child take deep breaths to calm down. Try to make the situation better by building your child up and pointing out what him or her did well. Once calm, have the teams line up to high-five each other. Ask your child what was learned from this loss and what can be worked on for next time. At the end of the day, it is just a game, and there will always be another chance to do better!

Parents and coaches should strive to be role models

Every adult present at youth sporting events - from the coaches to the officials to the parents in the stands - is someone that can influence your child’s behavior, for better or for worse. Directing your child’s focus to good sportsmanship and positive values through your own actions cultivates the team environment to be a positive influence. Make your priority praising your child’s accomplishments and encouraging improving skills. Even after a loss, adults can make the players feel like winners. Coaches and parents should be emphasizing sportsmanship values at every practice and game, serving as constant reminders and good examples. On the flip side, when children are bad sports, they must be shown where the line is and what the consequences will be if they cross it. And if this happens, follow-up with the response you laid out for them. Use this as a teachable moment for future improvements rather than punishing them for their emotions.


Being a good sport teaches children how to have respect and be mindful of their actions and emotions. These values will transfer to every other part of their lives. By emphasizing sportsmanship, you’re teaching them how to grow into a humble, collaborative and successful adult.

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