Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Sports are a great way for kids to stay active and learn about team building skills, competition, strategy and discipline. It can be challenging to balance a desire to win with healthy competitive spirit but it is possible. I’ve found these to be helpful reminders when discussing sportsmanship with my sons:
Play fair – it’s important to play within the rules and respect all players, coaches and officials.
Listen to your coach – coaches are there to help and it’s their job to develop you and the team as a whole.
Team first – specific to team sports, it’s important to understand that you are one of many. A team sport requires everyone to do their part so encourage each other and recognize that in order for everyone to get a chance to play, you might be asked to sit out a bit.
Trying your best – you play your best when you are committed to doing your best. That means you have to practice, show up ready and give your best every time.
Don’t argue – arguing with coaches, officials or teammates is not the best approach. If you are frustrated or don’t agree with a decision, find other ways to work through the emotions and situation.
Mistakes – if you make a mistake, take responsibility for it; don’t make excuses or blame others. If a teammate makes a mistake, offer them encouragement and support. Everyone makes mistakes – that’s how we learn and grow. Remember, every expert was once a beginner and even great athletes make mistakes.
Put things in perspective – although winning may be the ultimate goal in any competition, the fact is there will be losses. Recognize that losing is part of playing. The important thing is to learn from it and put it in proper perspective so you can move forward. When winning is the only objective, you lose the fun factor and relationship building process that a team sport offers. If you lose, you should show good character and sportsmanship by congratulating the other team.
Mindset – I really like the YMCA Youth Sports Pledge that we have. I believe it builds the right mindset:
“Win or lose, I pledge to play the game the best that I can, to be a team player, to respect the other team, rules and officials, and to improve myself in spirit, mind and body.”