By Rachel Wells
With so much emphasis on academics in today’s day and age, character education seems to have taken a back seat. Websites, apps, and workbooks are readily available for reading, writing, history, and math.
There doesn’t seem to be the same amount of resources available for children and parents in regards to how to be responsible, a good citizen, honest, compassionate, and a good sport. All of these character traits are important, but for now we are just going to focus on teaching and modeling good sportsmanship.
If your child is in after school sports programs, they have undoubtedly experienced both good and bad sportsmanship skills. Good sportsmanship encompasses being a graceful winner, a graceful loser, and showing respect to teammates, opponents, coaches, and officials. If your child understands how to be a good sport on the playing field, they will have the skills needed to show respect and appreciation in other aspects of their life.
Good sportsmanship can be shown in both small and large ways – from shaking an opponent’s hand, to commenting on a teammates good plays. In after school sports, parents and coaches need to focus on encouraging children to play fairly, have fun, and contribute to their team, while working to improve their own skills and abilities.
A simple and easy way to approach conversations about character traits is with storybooks. Books can be used as a springboard to meaningful and relevant conversations, and can help your child’s understanding and desire to ask questions. If you are looking for some book titles, here are five excellent choices to choose from.
In this story, a little girl named Kelsey is a sore loser who cheats and throws tantrums when she doesn’t win. She is not only a sore loser, but also a terrible winner. She is such a poor sport that she causes her basketball team to lose a game, before she realizes she needs to change her ways.
In this story, a little boy named RJ, learns that being a member of a team and sharing are not just skills needed for soccer, but for school and home as well.
This is a workbook style book that will help children learn that poor sportsmanship can negatively affect friendships. It will help kids understand that competitiveness is not a bad thing as long as they learn to balance their competitiveness with being a good sport.
This is a motivational story that addresses the emotional side of playing sports, how to deal with losing without getting angry or quitting, and how to be a good teammate.
This final story, is about a boy named Wendell who always likes to always win, but his mom shows him that everything in life does not have to be a contest, and that losing does not make you a loser – it can in fact make you stronger.
Actions speak louder than words. As parents we have to remember to set a good example during after school sports of how to be a good sport ourselves. Make sure to make positive comments, not to shout directions at your child, and not to dwell on who won or lost.
Model respectful behavior, congratulate the kids or team who won, and remember it is just a game, and everyone should be there to have fun. Sports give kids a chance to develop new skills, grow new relationships, and develop attitudes that can (if taught correctly) benefit your child throughout their life. Books can be an amazing tool for starting conversations about good sportsmanship as well as other character traits that are so important in your child’s development.