In a graphic I recently saw it lists being a good sport as one of the social skills kids need. This can be a difficult concept in a world filled with competition with rewards for being the best and little recognition if you are not.
It is important that competition is friendly and does not create divisions of them vs us since we don't want to teach children that being good at something makes you better than someone else. Instead we want to highlight that they may be good at soccer but their friend, or their sibling is good at music etc.
In the same vein, we want to stress that a child is not good at a particular sport it does not make them less than others. If they are having fun then they should keep playing. If they are not having fun then it is time to find something else they could try.
Book recommendation: Victorious Vole features a character who loves to run, but has some difficulty because of a limp. For a relay race, his team recognizes that the vole has good stamina and invites him to join them. Not only does this show good sportsmanship but it also shows the importance of friends who encourage you to succeed.
This book is available through the Quite a Character bookstore or Amazon.
Good sportsmanship isn't about being the best at the sport, it is making sure everyone gets to play, everyone has fun and everyone feels important. Kids (and sometimes parents) need to be reminded that if someone is part of the team they should get a chance to play.
I don't understand it when children who aren't very good are sidelined because now they don't get to practice so they can get better. If we show kids that everyone gets to be included, and we take the focus off of the competition and the winning, we can create a better environment for learning good sportsmanship. We need to encourage children who are trying, congratulate children who do well (even if they are on the other team) and promote a positive attitude throughout the game. This will often result in better game play too!
“Victory is in the quality of the competition, not just the final score."
Sports is not the only place we can practice good sportsmanship. Playing board games is a great way to introduce these concepts. Check out my blog post Family Game Night, to learn more.