Many children are involved in sports through their school or local athletic league. Everyone will agree that playing sports is good for children, because it builds character, and teaches them to work hard towards a goal. But how do you explain to your child that they must always be a good sport, when the evening news is filled with professional athletes fighting among themselves, and sometimes even fighting with spectators?
“Parents have a great responsibility to ensure that their children get what they need in terms of support and encouragement, and not place unnecessary pressure on them to win,” said Dr. John Murray, a nationally renowned sports psychologist and author of Smart Tennis. “Children can be taught to be good sports, especially when they face a defeat or a loss. Parents must model good behavior, and encourage them to stand tall, smile, congratulate their opponent and look forward to the next game.”
At the YMCA in Glasgow, sports and program director Jerome Garrett coordinates dozens of athletic games and events for children of all ages. He agrees that parents have a responsibility in teaching their children good sportsmanship. “I feel we can teach children be good sports mainly by being good role models,” he said. . “Children are influenced by the actions of adults that they are around. As adults, we need to conduct ourselves in a way that will be a positive influence on children.”
Adults can instill a sense of fair play in kids who play sports by putting more emphasis on good sportsmanship and the importance of learning how to play sports correctly instead of concentrating on making sure their kids get more playing time than the other kids on the team. Parents who do not get involved with the volunteer and coaching aspects of youth sports usually fail to understand the difficulties of making sure the entire team gets equal playing time and fair treatment.
Garrett believes that the Y succeeds in reaching out to young people by offering sports programs that put more emphasis on teamwork and good sportsmanship instead of concentrating on winning and being the best player or athlete. “The YMCA’s sports programs are designed for players of all skill levels. We instill the importance of having fun while teaching the character values of honesty, respect, caring and responsibility. We have several ways of rewarding children when any of these character values are demonstrated by one of our participants,” he said.
Adults who serve as coaches also have a responsibility, as parents, and as leaders in the sports community. “It is a coaches responsibility to try to raise the self esteem of every player on their team, regardless of their skill level,” said Garrett. “If a coach fails to do this, we run the risk of taking the desire to play sports out of the child. The bottom line is parents just need to get involved.”
Sportsmanship Tips for Children
- I will follow the rules of the game.
- I will avoid arguments and fights.
- I will play fair.
- I will follow the directions of the coach.
- I will respect the other team and officials.
- I will play my best.
Source: Dr. John Murray, Sports Psychologist