Sportsmanship and Grade-schoolers
Learn why sports are so important for kids and how you can teach—and demonstrate—good sportsmanship.
By: Gregory Germain, MD
Participating in a sport is a great way for your child to build her self-esteem, get some exercise and learn teamwork. While the AAP suggests not enrolling your child into competitive team sports until she is six years old, there are non-competitive leagues—such as American Youth Soccer Association, whose motto is “Everyone Plays”—and low-key teams at local recreation facilities that can teach your child the basic rules of the games. Let your child take the lead: If your daughter has a burning desire to play softball at five, you can find a pleasant, non-stressful way for her to do this.
How to Be a Good Sports Parent
Once your child is on a sports team, it is time to learn about good sportsmanship—not only for her, but for you as well. A screaming parent on the sidelines puts pressure on the child as well as the rest of the team. Parents can get very carried away—so much so that about once a year there is news story about an altercation between parents (or between parents and game officials) at a kids’ sporting event.
Fighting on the side of the court or field definitely gives your child the wrong idea about what is acceptable on it. Let the coach do the screaming and let your child concentrate on the game—unless, of course, parents are encouraged to cheer (in a positive, low-key way).
Use these other smart sports-parenting tips:
- Don’t brag to other parents about your child’s great game or her abilities: It will only embarrass her. Instead, point out what a great job all the kids did.
- Teach your child to play fairly; when she does, simply say “Good game.”
- If your child does display bad sportsmanship, such as taunting a player on the other team, take her aside afterwards and ask her how she would feel if the tables were turned. Praise her at the next game when she shows better manners.
- If your child doesn’t excel at a particular sport, don’t push her. She will most likely find some physical activity that she likes to do, even if it is just riding her bicycle (wearing a helmet, of course) around the neighborhood.