Coach's Guide: What About Sportsmanship? Does the Coach Teach That?

Coping with winning and losing is, of course, an essential part of playing sports, and basketball is no exception. Ideally, kids first learn about how to deal with victories and defeats from their parents even before the youngsters lace up their first pair of sneakers. But as the coach, it’s up to you to reinforce the appropriate behavior for winning and losing.


Every player will tell you that’s it more fun to win than it is to lose. But as the coach, you should strongly remind your team that “winning with class” is how you expect them to play. As such, if you spot one of your players taunting or humiliating an opponent when your team is way ahead in the game, simply call “time out” and have the youngster sit next to you on the bench. Explain to him or her that such behavior will not be tolerated by you, and unless they can learn to control themselves, they will not be allowed back into the game. Don’t worry. Because the ultimate fun is in playing, the youngster will quickly modify their ways to get back into the action. If they do happen to repeat the offensive actions again, then once again put them on the bench until they learn their lesson.


Many times, especially with younger kids, a loss will be accompanied by tears of disappointment. As the coach, understand that losing in basketball is, for many youngsters, a new — and painful — experience. Console them, praise them for their efforts, but never embarrass them, as in, “C’mon, what are you crying about? The players on my team don’t cry,” or “Stop your crying — that’s for babies!”

Tears are a normal reaction for young children who have just felt the sting of a defeat. Your job is to just reassure them that “Today just wasn’t our day,” and that “We played well, but the other team played just a little better.” Those are the kinds of thoughts you want your team to hear.

Finally, bear in mind that for most youngsters, the bitterness of a loss and the tears that go with it often disappear quickly. In most cases, the kids tend to be very resilient about the defeat. Within a few minutes of their tears drying up, they bounce back quickly by asking what their next activity for the day will be. Once they start asking questions like that, you know that they have moved past the loss — and by the way, Coach, you should too.

The issue of good sportsmanship always crops up these days with coaches. Sadly, the newspapers are filled with all sorts of accounts of sports parents — and coaches — who have lost their perspective when it comes to winning and losing. The best guideline to follow is to always remember that good sportsmanship starts with you! Players carefully watch and monitor the coach’s behavior. So if you are out of control, critically yelling and singling out a member of the team when things aren’t going well, don’t be surprised when the rest of the team follows that example.


Dealing with Officials

As a coach, you have to remember that in any game involving human judgment, there are going to be errors and mistakes. Occasionally officials will be involved in a close, controversial call. If you erupt from the bench and throw a tantrum, understand that you’re not only sending a message of poor sportsman- ship to the officials, but you’re also reinforcing exactly the type of behavior you want your players not to exhibit.

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