Children and adults learn many valuable lessons while competing in sports. Participating in sports helps solidify lessons in following directions, and can teach athletes the value of dedicating themselves to goals. Sports also provide physical exercise and an opportunity to exhibit good sportsmanship.
A 2014 national survey of 2,000 youth sports parents and coaches by Liberty Mutual Insurance revealed that even though they believe sportsmanship is one of the most important lessons of youth sports, 50 percent of respondents feel that sportsmanship has worsened in youth sports since responding adults were children themselves. Some startling findings included 60 percent of respondents reporting either witnessing or participating in negative or abusive sideline behavior, and 55 percent of coaches have experienced parents yelling negatively at officials or their own children.
Good sportsmanship occurs when people who are participating and those observing the sport treat one another with respect. This includes all players, parents, coaches, and officials.
While there’s much that coaches can do to instill good sportsmanship among their teammates, it is up to the parents and the players to help develop these skills. Here are some ways to encourage good sportsmanship.
• Parents can set an example. Parents watching from the sidelines should refrain from yelling at refs or negatively commenting on their kid’s performance — or the performance of any other player, for that matter. Offer high praise for the effort, win or lose.
• Maintain a positive attitude. Positivity can go a long way. Encourage others to do their best, and always put forth your best effort throughout game play.
• Support teammates. Never criticize a teammate for trying his or her best. Always commend the effort.
• Accept the officials’ decisions. Rules are in place to make the game fair and consistent. Follow the rules and accept when a ref, umpire or other official makes a call. Do not argue the call.
• Play fair. Never cheat or bend the rules to get ahead.
• Be a team player. Do your best to involve the whole team, even those players who may need a little extra help. Showboating or hogging the ball to show off your skills is discouraged.
• Win or lose with class. Always congratulate the winning team on a job well done if you are on the losing side. Accept the loss and own up to trying better next time. If you are on the winning team, shake hands with the losing team and wish them well. Do not gloat.
Sportsmanship is an important lesson that athletes can apply to other facets of their life.