Extremely outrageous behavior in the professional sports world appears to be increasing. It would not shock most people that children can be influenced by this, and engage in unsportsmanlike behavior in youth sports (such as physically or verbally assaulting other players or coaches, disregarding the unwritten rules of fair play, mocking opposing players or their fans, using legal game tactics inappropriately).
Parents, teachers, and coaches carry the burden of instilling in children the importance of good sportsmanship, and making sure children’s sports experience is filled not just with winning, but with opportunities for good life lessons. “Teachable moments” permit us to get a child’s opinion on unsportsmanlike behavior and to correct it if needed.
Adults should make a commitment to rewarding kids for good problem solving, appropriate behavior with adults and peers, holding themselves to high standards, and positive coping with adversity, by doing any or all of the following:
|•||Teach your child to learn the rules of the game, follow them, and take responsibility for their own performance as well as for the team as a whole.|
|•||Teach kids how to practice the golden rule, and how situations should and should not be handled. If possible, use examples from professional sports and support good problem resolution.|
|•||Prohibit verbal or physical abuse of coaches or peers, and teach kids skills to channel anger or frustration in more acceptable ways.|
|•||Balance a “winning is all” point of view with that of “Trying your personal best”. Your child and his/her team may lose the game, and they can learn to lose graciously without putting the blame on someone else such as a fellow player or coach.|
|•||Pick professional athletes who embody sportsmanlike behavior as role models. Encourage your child to emulate these character traits.|
Children who are part of a sports team can learn from their mistakes and learn to fight their battles with dignity and respect for others. Always remind them of the fun in sports, and love and support them regardless of their performance.