10 Sportsmanship Lessons Every Young Athlete Should Learn

"Sports do not build character. They reveal it." - Heywood Hale Broun

Nobody likes to lose. Everyone wants to win; but any time teams or kids are facing each other in a game or contest, someone will lose. As soon as children start to play youth sports, they begin to learn the basics of sportsmanship--one of the best reasons for young children to participate in team sports.

Good sportsmanship is about discipline, respect, self-control and playing by the rules.  A good sport is fun when they enjoy playing the game more than they care about the final outcome.

Losing gracefully isn't easy. It can be a hard lesson to teach. But instilling the fundamentals of good sportsmanship in children at an early age will set them up for success beyond athletics.

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  1. Respect the rules of the game. There's a reason why there are rules. It's to make sure the game is fair and fun, and to help keep the players safe.
  2. Treat others like you want to be treated. Saying mean things about and to your opponents is disrespectful to them, to the game you all love and even to your own teammates. Skip the trash talk.
  3. Respect not only your teammates, but also your opponents. Remind your child that there is no "I" in "team." It's also important to not put the other team down whether they are better or worse.
  4. Respect your coaches and the officials of the game. The coach and officials are there to provide direction. Whether you're a parent or a player, if you disagree with the coach, discuss it respectfully in private.
  5. Always play fair. A win earned by cheating doesn't feel nearly as good as an honest victory.
  6. Accept the judgment calls of the coaches and the officials without argument. Arguing with an official over a judgment call wastes your energy. Errors may be made, but a player should also know that a game is made up of all the plays and calls from the beginning to the end of the game, not just the call in dispute. The player with good sportsmanship may be upset, but that player also has learned to offer encouragement to teammates, especially when they make mistakes.
  7. Forgive yourself when you make a mistake and get right back into the game. Part of the human condition is making mistakes. Accept it and focus back on the competition and on doing the best you can for the rest of the game.
  8. Say "Thank you." Tell your coaches, the officials, volunteers and parents you appreciate all the time and effort they put into the sport.
  9. Win without gloating. If a player out-performs an opponent, that player enjoys the victory, but should not gloat, belittle or minimize the opponent's effort in any way.
  10. Lose with grace. Take responsibility for your losses. Placing blame on the other team, your teammates, the weather or the officials will not make the next game any easier.

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About the Author

Angela Bekkala

Angela Bekkala is an ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist and RRCA Running Coach. With a background in exercise science and over 15 years of experience in the industry, she is well versed in movement. She is the author behind the popular healthy living blog, Happy Fit Mama, that focuses on running, yoga, fitness and sharing nutritious recipes for the whole family.

Angela Bekkala is an ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist and RRCA Running Coach. With a background in exercise science and over 15 years of experience in the industry, she is well versed in movement. She is the author behind the popular healthy living blog, Happy Fit Mama, that focuses on running, yoga, fitness and sharing nutritious recipes for the whole family.

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