What Makes a Good Sportsman

It is a common practice that after a youth sports game, both teams line up and shake each other's hands. “Good Game!” We ask them to say with sportsmanlike conduct, even if they are thinking the opposite! Competitiveness is a natural part of growing up, especially at a young age. Comparison and competition are healthy to have towards siblings and friends as they are provided a safe environment where their attitudes can develop productively. Young kids are in a stage of black and white thinking. Goal oriented, anything becomes a game that can be won or lost: Whose toy is bigger or smaller, faster or stronger. Naturally, children feel frustrated and disappointed when they lose or feel they are not the best. These concepts of winning and losing can be harmful to kids. Their interactions with their peers are indicative of how they will respond to competition in the world. Our role as coaches and parents is to teach and build good sportsmanship while managing competitiveness.

What is Sportsmanship?

As parents and coaches, we urge our young players to “Be a Good Sport,” but what does that really mean? Good sportsmanship goes beyond talent and the ability to win. It is an attitude, and a style, worn before, during and after the game is done; therefore, integrity is a key to good sportsmanship. An athlete who shows integrity is consistent in their actions, which are truthful and reflective of their inner values. A Good Sport can’t just be on the field - they have to take their good sportsmanship off the field too!

So What Makes A Good Sport?

During the game, a good sportsman can determine whether your kids have a good experience or not. Plays Fairly by the Rules

Rules in a game are to make it fun and safe. Breaking them is not only unsafe but also dishonest. A victory won by following the rules is an earned one, making it more fun and giving kids a real sense of pride. Winning by cheating hurts everyone involved and doesn’t induce the same feeling of pride and glory. Cheaters never prosper!

Respect the Referees Calls

Referees know the rulebook inside out. They are there to keep the game fair, safe and fun. Respecting the referee's call is as much part of the game as playing it. It is part of being a good team player and having a positive attitude towards the rules. A team player recognizes the rules apply to all their team but knows how to own their individual mistakes without fighting the ref.

Learns (and Leads) by Example

We ask our young athletes to be a Good Sport, but what about parents and coaches? Good sportsmen take on many shapes and forms, including fans and spectators. Friends and family should be supportive and encouraging, emphasizing that winning is not everything. Parents may not always agree with coaches and referees but maintaining a respectful attitude will be contagious. Your athlete will also want to maintain a positive attitude and pass it on to their team. Remaining positive during the game is fun and participative. Losing can be disappointing, but there is much more to the game. As parents and coaches, we must continue to promote the idea of sports as playing to have fun and to be challenged. This will encourage a continued display of positivity and courtesy-on and off the field. Even after the game is done, a good sportsman understands how to be a respectful winner and a gracious loser.

Shakes Hands

Good sportsmen are respectful winners, recognizing their victory was hard earned without any need to gloat about it. They are sure not to put the other team down, and even offer a high five or a handshake at the end of the game. By recognizing it was a “good game” despite the outcome, young athletes are made aware that a good game is not necessarily one that was won but played well between two great teams. There are many officials and volunteers behind every youth sports event. Shaking hands with the opposing team is essential, but recognizing the officials is just as important. Expressing gratitude towards the referees and coaches demonstrates an acknowledgment of the team behind the team, who make the games possible! Avoids Trash Talk On and Off the Field

Being mean to opponents is being disrespectful to them, to the game and to your athlete’s own team. Even if the other team doesn’t hear the comments, it is a poor reflection of integrity and sportsmanship. Talk positively with your athlete after the game, about the loss or victory and speak well of the other teams and parents. Good sportsmanship does not come quickly to children, as they feel naturally competitive. As parents and coaches, we must continue to encourage positive attitudes and construct healthy concepts of winning and losing. By teaching and being a role model, we can help our kids learn this valuable life skill.