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Sport and Competition

Teaching the Value of Good Sportsmanship

Learning from highly publicized incidents of poor sportsmanship

Lately it seems as though there have been several, highly publicized incidents of poor sportsmanship. Whether it is Serena Williams berating a line judge or two college football players in a post-game scuffle, poor sportsmanship shouldn't be tolerated at any level of competition. While this unsightly side of sports can leave a bad taste in our mouth, it also provides a teaching and learning opportunity.

When kids see their role models acting inappropriately, it can become a bit confusing for them as they try to reconcile their expectations and admiration of the athlete with the athlete's disgraceful actions. That is the exact time to share with your young athlete what your expectations are for appropriate behavior. By doing so, you can help them clear up what the term "sportsmanship" really means, as the term can become a bit ambiguous after poor displays of sportsmanship.

Below I've listed some questions from our Culture, Education, Sport, and Ethics Program, which I mentioned in my previous blog post. These talking points are great for starting a conversation with your young athlete about the meaning and importance of good sportsmanship.

1. What does the term "sportsmanship" mean?
2. What are the characteristics of being a good sport?
3. What are the characteristics of being a poor sport?
4. What is the difference between being a good sport and a good athlete?
5. Think of athletes that you admire in your school or professional athletes that you look up to. What do you admire about this athlete and why?
6. What are the characteristics of a good coach?
7. What does a good coach teach athletes?
8. What kinds of mistakes do coaches make?

Hopefully as you discuss these questions and answers with your kids or young athletes, they will become better equipped to recognize respectable traits in professional and local athletes. In doing so, they are laying the groundwork for their own future of good sportsmanship and positive attitudes - both in sports and life.

More from Steven Ungerleider Ph.D.
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