Good sportsmanship is one of the most important lessons that we can learn from competition. Knowing that our success in sports is in learning to play the game with a certain attitude, rather than in whether we win or lose, and transferring that knowledge to other tasks and activities is an important part of the battle when it comes to learning to succeed.
It builds skills that all children and even some adults need to have for their own. So how do you teach children the meaning of good sportsmanship, let alone the practice of it, in today's society where messages and examples of poor and even downright bad sportsmanship abound?
The key is always in how you choose to communicate with your child on the subject. If you model and teach good sportsmanship your child will be able to learn it from you and you will be able to hold them to a higher standard.
The first role model that your child will have for the proper behavior in games and sports is you. Make sure that the impression that you make is a good one. Show your child that you enjoy sports and games for themselves and not just for the prospect of having your chosen team win.
Teach your children to admire skill and performance no matter who delivers it and even suggest that to them that it is okay to root for both teams if they so choose. You can also begin to introduce good sportsmanship rules with the games and sports that you and your child play together at home. Help them learn how to behave when play, winning, or losing before you send them out into the world to display those skills to others.
When you enroll your child in team sports, try to choose a team and a coach that share your ideas about good sportsmanship. A good coach will make their expectations of conduct clear early on in the season. Even if they don't, you should make sure that your child understands your expectations before they ever go on the field. Don't stop there, however. Keep looking for teachable moments that you can use to discuss good sportsmanship with your child.
They should be easy to find and you can use them as a jumping off point for the kinds of open-ended questions that are designed to get your child thinking about the issues involved. Finally, make sure that you monitor your child's behavior and language both on and off the field. Your child's coach may not call them on something that you find inappropriate, but that does not mean that you can let the issue pass by.
Instead, make a point of discussing it with your child at home so that you can make it clear that their behavior was not okay. It may seem like a lot of work to go to in order to make something fun, but the lessons your child is learning will serve them throughout their life.