What Is Good Sportsmanship?

Sportsmanship should be the cornerstone of any minor sports organization.

Sportsmanship is defined as: “Conduct becoming to an individual involving fair and honest competition, courteous relations and graceful acceptance of the results”.

The teaching of sportsmanship is an important part of youth development. To become contributing, competent, caring capable adults, youth must learn to be fair and generous competitors, good losers and graceful winners.

Good sportsmanship occurs when teammates, opponents, coaches, and officials treat each other with respect.

  • Kids learn the basics of sportsmanship from the adults in their lives, especially their parents and their coaches.
  • Kids who see adults behaving in a sportsmanlike way gradually come to understand that the real winners in sports are those who know how to persevere and to behave with dignity — whether they win or lose a game.

Parents can help their kids understand that good sportsmanship includes both small gestures and heroic efforts.

  • It starts with something as simple as shaking hands with opponents before a game and includes acknowledging good plays made by others and accepting bad calls gracefully. Displaying good sportsmanship isn't always easy:
  • It can be tough to congratulate the opposing team after losing a close or important game. But the kids who learn how to do it will benefit in many ways.

Kids who bully or taunt others on the playing field aren't likely to change their behavior when in the classroom or in social situations. In the same way, a child who practices good sportsmanship is likely to carry the respect and appreciation of other people into every other aspect of life.

Tips for Spectators

  • Applaud for your team AND others to recognize their effort.
  • Do not boo, heckle, make disparaging remarks, or make insulting comments about or to anyone - including competitors from the other team and/or game officials.
  • Congratulate the winning team at the end of the game.
  • Accept loss with grace and good temper. Keep your emotions under control. Do not swear or use offensive language, behave rudely or lose your temper. If you’re upset -wait 24 hours before acting.
  • If you have questions, concerns or suggestions, be polite in expressing them. Criticize in private and compliment in public. Be considerate of the time officials have to spend with you and of their other responsibilities. Schedule an appointment if you need more time then they have to spend with you.
  • Submit compliments, concerns and suggestions in writing with your signature. Take responsibility for your comments.
  • Remember that you are setting the example for today’s youth and tomorrow’s adults.

Tips for Parents

Remember the saying "Actions speak louder than words"? That's especially true when it comes to teaching your kids the basics of good sportsmanship. Your behavior during practices and games will influence them more than any pep talk or lecture you give them.

Here are some suggestions on how to build sportsmanship in your kids:

  • Unless you're coaching your child's team, you need to remember that you're the parent. Shout words of encouragement, not directions, from the sidelines (there is a difference!).
  • If you are your kid's coach, don't expect too much out of your own child. Don't be harder on him or her than on anyone else on the team, but don't play favorites either.
  • Keep your comments positive. Don't bad-mouth coaches, players, or game officials.

If you have a serious concern about the way that games or practices are being conducted, or if you're upset about other parents' behavior, discuss it privately with the coach or with a league official.

  • After a competition, it's important not to dwell on who won or lost. Instead, try asking, "How did you feel you did during the game?" If your child feels weak at a particular skill, like passing or catching, offer to work on it together before the next game.
  • Applaud good plays no matter who makes them.
  • Set a good example with your courteous behavior toward the parents of kids on the other team. Congratulate them when their kids win.
  • Remember that it's your kids, not you, who are playing. Don't push them into a sport because it's what you enjoyed. As kids get older, let them choose what sports they want to play and decide the level of commitment they want to make.
  • Keep your perspective. It's just a game. Even if the team loses every game of the season, it's unlikely to ruin your child's life or chances of success.
  • Look for examples of good sportsmanship in professional athletes and point them out to your kids. Talk about the bad examples, too, and why they upset you.
  • Finally, don't forget to have fun. Even if your child isn't the star, enjoy the game while you're thinking of all the benefits your child is gaining — new skills, new friends, and attitudes that can help all through life.

Tips for Coaches

Coaches nurture good sportsmanship. They should embody parents' values regarding good sportsmanship. A coach must model good sportsmanship at every level and make it a core goal of his work with kids.

Every youth sports coach should engage his players in a detailed discussion of good sportsmanship as soon as he forms his team. A written contract, perhaps titled, “The Good Sportsmanship Code”, should be given to every child and his parent to sign. The contract should spell out what the coach expects from each player in terms of good sportsmanship, including the following areas:

  • Cheating
  • Losing one's temper
  • Negative criticism of teammates, coaches, referees, and opposing players
  • Blaming teammates for mistakes or a poor team performance
  • "Trash talk" and taunting opponents
  • Use of offensive language
  • Showboating
  • Arguing referees' calls and judgments
  • The need to congratulate one's opponents after a game

Coaching children is an honour and a privilege that carries with it a moral responsibility to contribute to the healthy character development of young players. Coaches who equate "trying your best" as the definition of success -- and who value, expect, and demand good sportsmanship from their players -- help shape the moral, ethical, and spiritual character of children.

Parents should communicate often with their child's coach to make sure he/she takes this responsibility seriously.

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