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One of the greatest character traits sports can teach all athletes is sportsmanship. Sportsmanship can be defined as using the Golden Rule in sports: treat others as you wish to be treated. This includes being fair, respectful, and honest. Sportsmanship is an important trait not only for your athlete, but for you as a parent as well. You can help your child learn the importance of sportsmanship by talking with them about what it is, and then showing them what it is when you're cheering for them in the stands.

Start teaching your athlete about sportsmanship by explaining what it is. Sportsmanship includes:

  • Playing fair
  • Being honest
  • Following the rules of the game
  • Respecting officials, coaches, teammates, and opponents at all times
  • Remembering the golden rule to treat others as you wish to be treated

Sportsmanship occurs throughout sports. When you win, when you lose, when you are at practice, and when no one is looking are all examples of when it is important to display sportsmanship. To help your child further understand what acceptable sportsmanship behavior is and what it is not, talk to them about situations that could happen to them, such as trash talking or being pushed, and help them figure out how to handle the situation respectfully before it even happens.

The table below shows some acceptable and unacceptable behaviors in terms of sportsmanship.



Applauding during the introduction of both teams

Booing during the introduction of the opponent

Accepting all decisions of the officials

Yelling at and arguing with the officials

Cheering on players of both teams

Heckling the opponents

Accepting all decisions of the coaches

Degrading the coaches around your child

Congratulating opponents on a good game

Refusing to talk to opponents

Using positive words or phrases to try to encourage players

Using profanity or displays of anger to try to encourage players

Praising your child on what they did well

Criticizing your child for every mistake

Overall, your child's development of sportsmanship begins with what they see you do as a parent. Sometimes it can be hard to keep perspective when the game gets frustrating, but that's when having sportsmanship is crucial.