Modeling Good Sportsmanship

April 04, 2020

Modeling Good Sportsmanship

Children aren’t magically born with the ability to be a good sport.  While playing fair is a learned skill, modeling good sportsmanship happens when we demonstrate what we teach.  When parents and adults discuss and model appropriate play on and off the field, children will learn from their example.

Chances are you’ve witnessed that one parent at a kids’ sporting event.  They’re the one who’s a little too into the game and out of control.  They yell, tear down their children, rant at officials, and possibly use obscenities in the crowd.  With their taunting, they disrespect a player’s need to concentrate.  It’s an uncomfortable situation at best, and the behavior can also embarrass a child. 

Why Play?

Is it easier to avoid sports altogether?  Not necessarily.  The simple answer is not to discourage your child against playing any sports, but be mindful that when it comes to good sportsmanship, there is no quick fix.  Poor behavior in sports is a much broader issue when you think about those modeling it.  Children might see defiance against officials, trash talking, and violence when they watch professional athletes on TV or in person.  While these athletes may incur fines, they are still heroes admired by many children and even some adults.   


There are plenty of reasons to continue encouraging your kids to play sports.  When paired with a coach and adults modeling appropriate play and rules of the game, children learn much more than the mechanics of soccer or baseball.  Both on and off the field, these individuals often shape the moral and ethical character of your child.  A good coach recognizes that winning isn’t everything.  Healthy character development is one of the major positive byproducts of a coach who emphasizes good sportsmanship.    

Good Sportsmanship Guidelines

Demonstrating appropriate behavior on the field, and even in the workplace, is fundamental.  It not only encourages a healthy play or work environment, but it also models for adults and children the values of respect, character, and the worth of every human being.  Here are a few tips beyond cheering and clapping to coach you to good sportsmanship: 

  • Cheer for all- Recognizing talent is easy, but rewarding effort is equally important. Cheer for everyone participating.  This also helps you not to be reactive to your own child’s individual or team performance.  Your kids will also see you celebrating the love of the game, rather than just having a “winning is everything” approach.  Pay attention to your emotions, and keep them in check.
  • Thank you- Most officials, referees, and umpires aren’t in it for the money. Many of them are volunteers who want to give back to the community and its youth. The usual comments they hear are negative and involve complaints about their judgments.  A simple thank you and recognition of their time encourages them and models gratitude to the other parents and children. 
  • Interact positively with the other team- Remember, the opposing team is not the enemy. Those are real parents who are just as proud of their children.  Chatting with them and the opposing team’s players is not taboo.  Rather, it demonstrates you are not too caught up in the game to be a respectful, kind-hearted, fellow parent.  Congratulate them if they win; offer encouragement if they lose.  Never boo a player on either team, and be mindful to avoid any offensive language. 
  • Don’t coach- Unless you’re the coach, skip the urge to call or challenge any plays. If you do need to speak with the coach, set up a one-on-one conversation to keep it private.  Likewise, avoid critiquing your child’s performance or mistakes on the ride home.  Ask them if they had fun and what they learned.  While your intentions may be good, just being there to watch the game will teach them far more in the long run. Many professional athletes attribute their success to parents’ encouragement, not their coaching. 
  • Model good self-care- If you show no interest in physical activity, there’s a good chance your child won’t either. When you play a sport for fun, it encourages kids to do the same. As an added bonus, you’ll remember how difficult it can be sometimes, making you less likely to criticize your child’s performance. 
  • Chill out & Check in – Try to remember that your child is growing and learning, and might just want to have fun sometimes. Keep in mind that if you are trying to live vicariously through your child, it will likely not have a positive outcome.

Remember, the best way to ensure a fun and healthy season is to practice the “golden rule” of sports, which is to treat others the way you’d like to be treated.  This applies to teammates, opponents, coaches, and parents.  Criticism and poor behavior will never earn a win, but modeling good sportsmanship is a sure strategy for success in your child’s life, both on and off the field.


Want to talk to a counselor today about this? 

Call Amplified Life at 800-453-7733 and ask for your “Free 15 Minute Phone Consultation" with one of our licensed counselors. We’ll listen, answer questions you may have, and help you plan next steps.







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