How to Explain Sportsmanship to Children: 4 Steps - MakeSureHow
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Show kids that it is the attitude they display after the game that makes them the real winner.

Don't you just want to cringe at the two extremes that have developed in children's sports? On one side you have crazy people screaming at kids, officials, and other parents because they're unhappy with the game, and then they take it out on the kids later. Shame on them. And on the other side, you have the other extreme: Parents that tell the children "Everyone's a winner", and it was just fun to play. Huh? Neither of these is a good way to prepare your child for the life he will eventually face: one where there are winners and losers and a life in which how he handles himself will matter. To get him to understand, talk to him about true sportsmanship.


  1. 1
    Go to a game with your son and watch for an opportunity to point out different behaviors and comment on them. For example, if you see a child get angry and throw down his bat because he struck out, say something like, "Oh, he shouldn't throw his bat. That's not acting nice. It's not the pitcher's fault that he swung at that ball." Or if you see a parent yelling at an umpire, you could say, "He needs to calm down. The umpire is in charge, and yelling only shows that he's a bad loser." Hopefully, along with a lesson on how to behave, your child won't learn any new words that shouldn't be in his vocabulary.
  2. 2
    Talk to your child about winning and losing. Explain how it is okay to be happy your won or sad that you lost, but it isn't okay to be mad at the other person because you lost or brag because you won. Demonstrate what you mean. Tell your child you are going to pretend to be the winner. Jump up and down in front of him and say, "I won and you lost" over and over. Stop and ask him if that would make him feel bad if you were really playing. Talk about how that is a bad winner and not how he should act. Repeat the exercise by pretending to be a loser. Stomp your foot and say, "I don't want to play with you anymore. You don't play fair." Ask him if that is the way a person that lost should act.
  3. 3
    Give him good examples of how he should act if he wins or loses. If he wins, tell him he should walk over to the other person or team and say something such as "That was a good game" or "Y'all were tough to beat!" or "It's ok, you'll probably get us next time." Explain that if he loses he can say things like "That was a great game" or "Congratulations" or "Way to go. You are really good."
  4. 4
    Teach your child to share. In sports sharing might be a little different, but it's still there if you're playing on a team. A child cannot hog the ball the entire duration of a soccer game (Don't you wish you could tell the ball hog's parents this?). He must let others play too. Not only is this just a nice thing to do, it is also better for the team because another child might be able to make a shot that your child cannot. Of course, getting this across to your child (and other parents, for that matter!) may not be easy, so instead demonstrate. Take him out with a soccer ball and tell him that you and he are on the same team. Explain that you are heading to the goal and the other "pretend" team is coming toward you. Start to play, but don't ever give him the ball. If he doesn't catch on at first, he will after you do it a few times. Once he realizes what's going on, stop and ask, "Does it make you sad that I didn't ever give you the ball?" Then explain that that is how his teammates feel when he doesn't give them a chance to try.


  • As he gets older and can understand more, you can point out other things such as cheating.

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Categories: Education and Communications

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