Learning Sportsmanship in Youth Sports

When kids are first enrolled in sports they are taught the rules of the game but often overlooked is the idea of sportsmanship.  Sportsmanship is more than adhering to the rules of the game it helps develop character in your players.  For years there have been studies done on the unhealthy behavior that you see in youth sports, this behavior has led to rule changes at athletic events.  Let’s look at what makes good sportsmanship in young athletes and how they should be coached.

Learning Sportsmanship in Youth Sports

Good Sportsmanship

Players should have a natural love of the game, sports develops camaraderie and a deep appreciation for hard work and the skill the game requires.  They should be taught to value effort and that effort should be put towards the pursuit of excellence in your chosen sport.  Your opponent is not your enemy and you should respect their ability to play.  The officials are not there to make life miserable in fact if you listen to  what they say you can dramatically improve your game.

Rules are there to be adhered to but it should set the minimum expectation as far as fairness goes.  Rules are meant to be followed all the time and not just when the officials are looking at the play.  How you play the game matters as much as who wins.   Look for the lessons in losses and be both a gracious winner or loser.  Yes, you should take a competition seriously but still enjoy the game.

Poor Conduct at a Game

There are plenty of examples of poor conduct at a sports game by players, coaches and parents alike.  Nobody likes losing but it is a game and not a war the opposing team is nor your enemy, and they do deserve your respect.  There can be friendly banter at games but trash talking, gloating and taking cheap shots at the opposing team do no one any good.  Youth in particular need to learn that there is something to be learned in losing and you don’t blame someone else for your losses.

Youth should be taught good sportsmanship and that is why there is the custom of shaking hands at the end of a game.  Standards of play and rules should not be taken for granted and demonstrations of sportsmanship should be genuine rather than just going through a ritual.  This lesson needs to come from the top, parents as well as coaches should help instill the lessons and set good examples during game play.

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