Parents and kids alike love sports, and it’s easy to get caught up in a game and become focused on winning. Yet there is much more to be gained from the sports experience than a winning record. When children and teens are involved in sports, they can learn and put into practice values that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
Good sportsmanship is one of the life lessons that children can learn from sports. You can help your children understand and value good sportsmanship while making sure they have a safe and fun sports experience.
Good sportsmanship may seem hard to define, but its hallmarks include being able to win without gloating, respecting one’s opponents, and being able to lose gracefully.
Teach your child that it’s okay to feel disappointed after losing. Feeling disappointed is normal, but there are different ways to express that disappointment. Some children may be ready to jump back in and play again. Others may need to step away from the game, take a break, ask for a hug, spend a little time alone, listen to music, or read a book to calm down. Let your child know there are lots of ways to show disappointment, but that it’s never okay to say mean, disparaging, or untruthful words about others just because your feelings are hurt. For instance “I’m supposed to win, not them, They must have cheated!”.Even if your child wins, talk about how those who lost are feeling.
Share with your child that even if they feel upset or disappointed, they can practice good sportsmanship by congratulating those who did win. Find meaningful ways to be a good sport even during informal games at home whether you win or lose. Shake hands. Say, “Good game!” Share a genuine compliment with the other player or players to let them know something they did that was positive or showed skill/improvement. Thinking about others’ feelings can often help children manage their own, for instance, “They worked hard – just like me!.”
Whether you win or lose the games you play with your child, use these moments as opportunities to be a positive role model. Share with your child when you feel disappointed or frustrated after losing and show them how you manage your feelings. For example “Sometimes I take a deep breath and tell myself that it’s okay to be upset. Then I remember how much I enjoyed playing with you. Just because I lost doesn’t mean I didn’t have a good time, too.”
After calming down from initial feelings of upset or disappointment, reflect together on the game or competition. Ask questions like, “What went well?” “Is there something you learnt that will help next time?” These types of questions might be especially helpful for games that require skill For example chess, and physical sports.
Being a good sport after winning or losing comes more naturally to some children than others, but all children can learn these skills with practice and support.