Sportsmanship: Make it a measurement of character

Sportsmanship is a way of life. What type of role model are you?

We usually think of sports as a way to teach kids various physical skills, but youth sports can offer many more learning experiences. There is a lot of research and writing concerning performance but there is very little on the impact around the social, emotional, intellectual, and moral impact of participants according to the Josephson Institute of Ethics. Children learn behavior from the adults most important to them. Those important people could be the parent, a teacher, coaches or a good friend. Regardless, it is important that adults model appropriate ways of being a good competitor and spectator.

Sports are a major social forces that shape the quality and character of American culture. It is an opportunity to teach kids how to handle themselves positively in difficult situation. Below are examples of how grownups can teach a child (and maybe some adults) to be a generous competitor, a good loser, and a graceful winner.

  • Teach sportsmanship- Require participants to demonstrate sportsmanship before, during and after a competitive event. This can be accomplished by following rules, be honest and fair, show respect, be well mannered, and accept outcomes gracefully.
  • Applaud your children- Be sure to express your appreciation to the children, the other club/ group, officials and others you wish to show respect. Examples of this are to accept the ruling of the officials, congratulate all participants, remain positive at all times, and be cheerful and friendly.
  • Show respect to others- Don’t heckle, boo, make rude and sarcastic comments or insult other spectators, competitors, coaches or officials. Try to keep emotions under control and give others the benefit of the doubt. Again show respect and please refrain from public arguments.
  • Be a polite participant – Listen, act interested, and remain quiet when participants are introduced or when announcements are made. Stay untill the end of the event, even if your child is finished competing. By doing this you are being a positive role model and showing integrity. Be objective and accept the nature of competition.
  • Show Courtesy to others- Do not block the view of others when taking pictures or videos, standing in aisles, or by jumping and standing up in moments of excitement. Always leave the viewing area clean by throwing away any litter.

By practicing the above examples, any event can be a pleasurable activity for all involved. Most importantly you will become a positive role model for the youth around you!

Michigan State University Extension offers a multitude of classes and resources on stress and anger manage, parenting, conflict resolution and violence prevention.

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