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Teaching a Balance Between Good Sportsmanship and Winning Is a Win-Win for Kids and Parents

July 14th, 2015     By Bryan Smith,

Family, Respect, Youth Sports

​This summer, my family enjoyed watching the Women’s World Cup soccer tournament. As the games went on, my son asked more and more questions. One stood out: “Dad, what’s a yellow card?” I was able to explain to him that a player is given a yellow card when she does something that is not allowed, like pushing or tripping a player from the other team. I told him that breaking those kinds of rules it’s like cheating to help your team win. Then we talked about what players should do instead, like following the rules and treating each other with respect. Soon after that, my son was pointing out players who helped their opponents up when they fell down and how opposing teams hugged each other after a match was over. What a great opportunity to talk about good sportsmanship, and how it’s more important than winning.

I am so fortunate that my son is learning these valuable lessons just as the school year is about to start. So many times, things become a competition at school. Whether it’s a simple spelling game or just being first in line, kids feel they need to “win.” As adults, we need to remember that these situations open the door for a great conversation about sportsmanship, manners, social skills, etc. Our goal should be to encourage our children to always have a winning attitude but to understand that, in the end, winning really isn’t everything.

Tips for Parents

1. Your children are always watching you. Make sure you set a good example by showing good sportsmanship at their games, or while watching sports on TV or attending other sporting events.

2. Whether your child wins or loses a game, make sure you point out anything positive he or she did (shook hands with the other team, told someone “Good game!”).

3. Use situations where someone is showing poor sportsmanship to discuss with your child why good sportsmanship is so important.

4. Role-play situations where someone is bragging about their athletic abilities so your child can practice how he or she would respond.

5. Make it a point to focus on your child’s effort in anything he or she does, rather than just the final result.

For a great story that provides opportunities to discuss this topic with your children (or your students), check out my latest book, If Winning Isn’t Everything, Why Do I HATE to Lose?, available from the Boys Town Press®.

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