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Amy Steele, LCSW, RPT – Nov. 29, 2019

In any sport, there are a number of skills that one must learn to be successful. The skill of being a good loser will take kids far in life, whether they play sports for one season or make it as a professional athlete. It is a skill that is used throughout all of life when disappointing things happen.

 A good loser accepts the loss in a way that shows respect for one’s self, both teams, the coaches and all of the other people involved. The seven tips below will help you improve your child’s ability to be a good loser and a good winner.

  • Start young.  Play board games with kids when they are little. Teach them that everyone wins and loses sometimes. End games by having everyone shake hands or do “Good Game” high fives to practice positive outcomes. 
  • When your child is upset about losing (at any age,) acknowledge that you understand it is disappointing to lose. You may have a child that is such a sore loser that you avoid games or anything competitive with them at all. While this may make it easier at the moment and avoid a tantrum, avoiding it would take away a great learning opportunity. Teaching your child to persevere through what they may see as a failure shows them they can get through hard things and that you will be with them as they do. You are building character, and each time you do this it will become easier for the child to handle it the next time.
  • Observe your own behavior to see if you and other adults in your child’s life are modeling good sportsmanship. The adults closest to a child (in particular the same-sex parent) are the people they look to the most as a model for their behavior. Do you make excuses for your own difficulties or when things don’t go your way?  Blame your boss when something goes wrong?  Yell at the coach or referees? Criticize your kid’s teacher in front of them?  How do you react when your team loses or your child doesn’t make a team? Decide what you can do to be a better example of a good loser for your child.
  • Expect your child to be responsible for their own actions and remind them that everyone has bad days and everyone makes mistakes – even coaches, referees, and teammates. Make your child accountable every time they have a bad attitude such as making excuses, blaming others, booing, or criticizing someone.
  • Encourage your child to watch how others act when they lose and use it as a teachable moment.
  • Teach your child to encourage their teammates and look for the positives.  Good sports and good teammates support and encourage each other.
  • Help your child bounce back from disappointments in games and sports, as this is good preparation for real life. 

As your child grows they will have the skills in place to help them handle many different kinds of loss, such as the loss of a job or a relationship.   It is likely they will turn to those who helped them handle a loss previously when they need help again. Be that person for them when they are young.

By Alice Munson, MSW, Courier & Press, May 9, 2017 –

Anyone who attends school athletic events has probably noticed negative behavior in a small percentage of parents. These are the folks who believe winning is everything, and the opposing team, players and coach are not deserving of respect. Forgetting the meaning of sportsmanship, they make their opinions known to anyone within earshot.

We all like to see our children or team win, but there is much more we hope our children will learn from their involvement in athletics. Here are some things that come to mind:

  • Physical as well as mental challenges
  • How to adapt to unforeseen problems
  • Learning to show respect for the efforts of others
  • How to share time and talent
  • Learning to work harder and smarter to achieve goals

These are certainly lessons our children could use in day-to-day life outside of sports. Here are some additional benefits from participating in sports:

  • Learning problem solving
  • Learning to develop strategy
  • Developing trust in one’s self
  • Exposure to calculated risk taking

Looking at the last four benefits, you can see how easily they could translate to situations like standardized testing. This would certainly be a win for both athletics and academics so that these benefits could positively impact a student for life.

According to momsteam.com, here are some other behaviors you can model to make sure your child has a positive experience:

  • Don’t view the other team as the enemy. Talk with parents and players from the other team to send a message that the game isn’t life or death.
  • Congratulate and applaud ANY player (on either team) who makes a good play.
  • Have fun! If kids see you having fun on the sidelines, they will keep the game in perspective and realize they can be good sports and have fun too.

Don’t condone poor sportsmanship. Don’t cheer on the coach or player who gets ejected from the game because of bad behavior. Rather, use this as an opportunity to talk to your child about poor sportsmanship at home after the game.

Take a look in the mirror. How is your behavior on the sidelines viewed by other parents, coaches and players? Are you keeping your cool, remaining calm and under control in tough situations? Children learn self-control by watching adults model self-control.

When we get caught up in the emotion of a tie-breaking play, we need to remember that we all want our kids to win and they all deserve respect. The essence of competition is sportsmanship – learning to be gracious in winning as well as losing.

This is a quality that everyone can model for his or her child. After all, we are our children’s first and most important teachers. Let’s give them something to be proud of – parents who are positive and supportive of their student athlete, team and coaches.

After all, whose game is it anyway?