One of the many benefits of youth sports is the way it helps kids learn good sportsmanship. But just joining a team won't turn your child into a good sport. Parents need to provide some coaching.
Here's how to tailor your teachings to your child's age and personality, and how to find a coach that makes good sportsmanship a priority for players. At home and on the playing field, aim to teach kids in a language they understand, apply some positive peer pressure, and have some consequences in your back pocket too.
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These principles of fair play and respect ("say thank you," "own your mistakes," and more) give your child a good start. Ask kids to follow these guidelines—and parents, speak up if adults are exhibiting unsportsmanlike conduct too. (Here are 10 Basics
for them, too.)
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These picture books and beginning chapter books share important lessons about good sportsmanship without being overly moralistic. They include a contemporary retelling of an Aesop fable (pictured), a poetry collection, some familiar friends, and a series especially for soccer players and fans.
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Slip one of these titles to your athlete (or reluctant reader). Prominent writers, including Walter Dean Myers and John Feinstein, use sports as a vehicle for wrestling with tough topics kids face every day, like changing friendships, fairness and shifting loyalties.
This is a hard question for many parents to answer. You feel bad beating a kid at a game, and you understandably want to avoid the tantrums that easily result when kids are angry about losing. But if your child doesn't learn to lose at home, will she be able to learn this life lesson on the playing field?
In this brief video, Heather Tyler packs in plenty of suggestions about how to help kids enjoy playing sports and learn teamwork and sportsmanship. It all starts with playing together at home.
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Every two years, the Olympic Games light up our TV sets and laptop screens with exciting feats of athleticism—and often, moving displays of commitment, dedication, sportsmanship, and patriotism. Watch together and discuss what you see, good and bad.
Hint: The best one is the one that your child enjoys! Read profiles of dozens of team and individual sports to learn more about how they're played, what types of kids might like them, and (importantly!) how much it will cost you if your child signs on. You'll also want to ask yourself these questions when deciding on a kids' sports program
With competition comes real winning—and losing. Whether your child is old enough to handle this is just one of the factors to consider.
Here's how to give a post-game pep talk that helps your child improve her skills and continue enjoying her sport. Stress effort over achievement and deliver positive, specific words of praise.
How does your child react when things don't go his way? Learning to handle disappointment gracefully is part of participating in sports, and it's part of good sportsmanship too. Help your child turn mistakes and setbacks into learning experiences.
Parental involvement goes a long way toward helping your child learn the life lessons that come with sports participation. Your biggest job is to stay positive and supportive.