The perpetual sports season continues. March Madness has concluded, the Stanley Cup will soon be hoisted, the NBA playoffs are here and baseball is in full swing. Several weeks ago the Winter Olympics dominated the airwaves, as they do every four years.
Fundamental to sports are wins and losses. We all play to win, but invariably, by the very nature of the contest, someone will lose. In February, an Olympic team placed second and received silver medals. One of the players immediately removed her medal in disappointment. This was not an example I wanted my student-athlete to witness, yet it became a teachable moment during which we could discuss the importance of good sportsmanship, of having a winning attitude even if your team loses the contest.
The truth is, I've watched my daughter’s team lose many games. It’s hard for me to not internalize their losses as I watch the team play so hard. Secretly, I sometimes imagine the opposing team’s three-point swisher spraining an ankle. That’s the crazy and competitive mom in me. In that moment, I’m just as bad as that silver medal Olympic athlete! That attitude shames me as I watch my daughter’s team continue to hold their heads high and never give up.
If I, as a mom in the bleachers, struggle to take the high road during my child’s athletic competitions, how can I help her develop a high standard of sportsmanship? As I contemplate this balance of passion for winning and the importance of a good attitude, I ask myself, “How can I teach my child-athlete to play competitively and still lose with grace? What does good sportsmanship mean and how do we apply it?” Here are a few tips I have found to be useful while encouraging my daughter:
Remember that you are playing because you love the game.
Think about the positives gained from playing a sport:
- Being part of a team
- Learning to persevere
- Staying physically active
- Learning time management and other life skills
Keep a positive attitude – encourage your teammates. Affirm things done well, shake off your mistakes and improve from them.
Keep things in perspective- no matter how passionate you are, it really is just a game.
A loss or even multiple losses doesn't change who you are.
Be gracious in defeat. Congratulate the winning team. They have earned it.
Learning great sportsmanship is fundamental to many skills, including developing a solid work ethic. Embracing a loss when the game plan doesn’t work in our favor is an opportunity for growth. Sportsmanship is a home run skill. It takes you beyond the ballpark to someplace greater.