Learning good sportsmanship in youth sports is not automatic. Parents and coaches must be intentional about teaching kids to develop a team player attitude. The following tips will help you instill good sportsmanship in young athletes.
1. Give everyone - coaches, players, parents - a clean slate for the new season. Don't hold grudges.
2. Learn when to keep your mouth shut. That includes biting your tongue and letting your kid talk when he is ready.
3. Stop worrying! It doesn't help your child play better. It just makes you crazy and causes tension in your family.
4. Let your children learn to fight his own battles and grow from his mistakes.
5. Model what you want your kids to model to their teammates. If you "trash talk" teammates or coaches, your kids will most likely do the same.
6. Let the coach be the coach. Tips at home are okay when asked, but pushing your kids like a coach may cause tension in your relationship.
7. Be positive. Being negative will only frustrate your kids and hurt your relationship with them.
8. Ref-bashing is useless and sets a poor example.
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9. Pick your fights. When there are moral or ethical issues involved, there is a time and a place for your kids to know that you are on their side.
10. Love your kids no matter how they perform. If they had a bad game, they know it and don't need any reminders from you.
11. Respect your child's choices of when to play a sport and when to move on. If they don't have the desire and motivation to play the game, it will be a season of battles and negative attitudes.
12. Support the whole team, not just your child. Cheer for the team and go to the games even when your son or daughter isn't playing.
13. Remember that what is best for the team may not be what your child wants. Regardless if he gets to play his favorite position or gets the playing time he wants, as he learns to be a team player he will understand his role.
14. Avoid nagging and pushing your child; stick with help and encouragement.
15. Remember that you can't fix everything for your child. Sometimes you just have to let him find his own way.
16. Keep your sense of humor. Find the fun and joy in your child's game instead of worrying about how many minutes he is on the court, how many rebounds he has, or how terrible the ref's calls are.
17. Grow a thick skin. Turn a deaf ear to the ignorant and senseless remarks you hear in the stands or after a game.
18. Love your child before the game. Express your support and love in such a way that has no strings attached to the upcoming game.
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19. Make the car ride home a game-free zone. Don't talk about the game, win or lose, unless they want to talk. Say something positive, then let it drop until they bring it up.
20. Have a life outside of sports. Enjoy other things with your kids that have nothing to do with sports.
21. Always look for the best. Build up the good stuff you see in your kid. Appreciate the small victories.
22. Let your kids work hard. Don't let them off the hook when they need to spend extra time practicing their hitting or shooting. Work with them until they are ready to stand on their own.
23. Let your kids fail. There are times when we can exhibit grace and love and step in to help in a tough situation, but more often than not, we must let our kids fall and get back up again.
24. Encourage your child to be a leader. Other kids look up to athletes, and they should take that responsibility seriously.
25. Don't support a "victim" mentality. Kids like to place the blame on someone else such as a referee, teammates, or coach. Encourage him instead to take responsibility for his actions and mistakes.
Youth sports provides boundless opportunities for athletes to learn life-changing lessons. With your guidance, they will make the most of their experiences and learn the true meaning of good sportsmanship.
Janis Meredith writes Jbmthinks, a blog on sports parenting and youth sports. After being a coach's wife for 28 years and a sports parent for 20, she sees issues from both sides of the bench.