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Mockery, inappropriate language, chair throwing, cheating, even physical altercations—more than likely, you’ve witnessed this type of unsportsmanlike behavior either on the field or in the stands. Is good sportsmanship taking a back seat to winning?According to a 2010 survey on sportsmanship, 65 percent of Americans feel that sportsmanship is worse now than it was a generation ago. In reality, this number is actually down 20 percent from the prior year. Perhaps good sportsmanship is still in style. For the do’s and don’ts of good sportsmanship, plus some simple ideas on how to promote it in your school, keep reading.

  • Promoting good sportsmanship
    One of the most important goals of school sports is to promote good sportsmanship and respect for others. This is shown with small gestures, like a handshake or positive praise, and with more extreme actions, such as lending a hand to a fallen opponent or fessing up when nobody but the opposing team saw your foul. After all, it’s not whether you win or lose; it’s how you play the game, right? Here are five steps for good sportsmanship you can promote in your school:
  1. Keep it positive: We’ve all heard the saying “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” This holds true in sports, too. Withhold the urge to make negative comments about other players, coaches or game officials. Setting a good example by keeping comments positive promotes good sportsmanship.
  2. Accept bad calls and criticism gracefully: Referees and other game officials have a difficult job. Their calls are likely to disappoint someone, no matter what. Good sportsmanship involves accepting a call with grace, even if you don’t agree with it. Don’t let one bad call ruin the entire game. Get back in play and focus on playing well.
  3. Be inclusive: It is important to encourage and support participation from every player on the team. Provide a chance for every member to play and to have fun. Participation by even the most unskilled players can create teachable moments for all. View these instances as opportunities to teach, learn and improve.
  4. Win and lose with dignity: Win gracefully, and don’t gloat about your victories. Remember to lose with dignity as well. View losses as an opportunity for improvement. Learn from your mistakes and successes and from those of others. Encourage each team member to discuss lessons learned after every game. Boost participation by presenting those who provide feedback with team logo’d giveaways, such as Pennants, rally towels and cow bells.
  5. Lead by example: Youth learn the basics of sportsmanship from the adults and other role models surrounding them. Team members, coaches, teachers and parents should be encouraged to lead by example. Players who see others exhibiting respectful, sportsmanlike conduct are more likely to exemplify the same—and this is apt to carry over from the field into other aspects of life. Be sure to reward those who demonstrate great sportsmanship; perhaps add a sportsmanship award to your year-end honor ceremonies. A plaque or trophy is a great way to recognize those who epitomize the values your school holds high.

Promote your mission for good sportsmanship throughout your school. Imprint the five steps of good sportsmanship on T-shirts, hoodies and hats, and distribute them in the school store, at games and during assemblies. Make sure everyone knows that, at your school, sportsmanship is a must. The best teams are those who play for fun, fairness and sense of team.

Hay, Robert. “ARA Shines a Bright Light on Good Sportsmanship.” The Power of A. N.p., 03 Aug. 2011. Web. Retrieved 06 Mar. 2014.

“Sportsmanship.” KidsHealth. Ed. Steven Dowshen, M.D. The Nemours Foundation, 01 Oct. 2011. Web. Retrieved 06 Mar. 2014.

“Teaching Children Good Sportsmanship.” Online Medical Encyclopedia – University of Rochester Medical Center. N.p., n.d. Web. Retrieved 06 Mar. 2014.

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