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Good Sportsmanship for Kids and Families

Promote the values of fair play and team spirit in sports--and life.

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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.

Teach Your Kids About Winning and Losing in Sports

Teams congratulate each other after baseball game
Erica Greis
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.

10 Basics of Sportsmanship for Kids

Teen girl soccer team
Barry Austin / Getty Images
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.)

Teach Sportsmanship with Books

Bat's Big Game
Albert Whitman & Company
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.

Great Sports Books for Teens and Tweens

Tangerine by Edward Bloor
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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.

Playing Games with Kids: Should You Let Them Win?

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?

Video: Tips for Involving Kids in Team Sports

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.

Life Lessons During the Olympic Games

Olympic torch runner on track
Photo and Co
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.

The Best Sports for Kids

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.

When Should Kids Start Competitive Sports?

With competition comes real winning—and losing. Whether your child is old enough to handle this is just one of the factors to consider.

What to Say to Your Child After a Game or Sporting Event

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.

Dealing with Disappointment in Youth Sports

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.

Help Your Child Thrive in Sports

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.
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