Teaching Good Sportsmanship: From Board Games to Ball Fields

Scoring the winning touchdown or bankrupting the other players at Monopoly is a good feeling. We all enjoy the pleasure of a victory. But part of playing the game is being prepared to lose as well. Competition can motivate kids and teach them about their abilities and limitations. It’s just as important to teach our children to respect one another no matter the outcome of the game as it is how to play the game. Here are some tips to teaching good sportsmanship from board games to ball fields:

Be a Good Role Model. We have all seen the parents who yell at the referees or throw a fit if their kid is benched. Act in a manner that you would be proud to see your kids mimic.

Talk About Possible Outcomes. The team might go to the championships this year or they might never win a single game. Maybe your child will beat you at checkers or maybe mom is unstoppable. The important thing is that we all enjoy playing. Teach your child that even if they lose, it doesn’t mean they are bad at the game. It may simply be a game of chance or they may need to practice more. Participating and demonstrating good sportsmanship, win or lose, that’s a win in and of itself.

Put a Stop to Bullying. Don’t allow children to tease one another or name call. Remind kids that we are all here to play a game and help each other succeed. By helping others, we will become better at the game too. And, it is a wonderful feeling to see our friends do well.

Follow the Rules. It can be very tempting to cheat at times or “bend” the rules a bit. But, playing the game according to the rules is essential to good sportsmanship. Learning that they will not always win is a good lesson for children. Older children typically have no difficulties accepting defeat and comprehending it. For younger children (under 6), you can discuss different reward levels. That way, there is a prize even if they don’t technically “win”.

Play a Fair Game. Instill values in your young players. Remind them that cheating is never acceptable and honesty is the best policy. Winning a game by means of cheating doesn’t count as a win at all and is nothing they can be proud of. Playing a fair, honest game shows integrity.

Win with Dignity/Lose with Grace. Win or lose, as long as your child played their best game, you both should feel proud. If they don’t win, teach them to congratulate the other player(s) (or shake hands in team sports), and thank them for the game. If we want friends to play with us again, it’s important not to sulk or throw a fit. We can learn from our mistakes. On the other hand, when we win, a victory dance is not necessary. Feel good about the win but don’t gloat or brag. And again, thank your opponents for playing and point out their successes within the game too. For example: “That shot you made was incredible!” or “It was so cool when you bought those hotels on Boardwalk!”

By consistently promoting good sportsmanship, you can look forward to years of good gaming both at home and on the field. So, whether it’s Jenga, Go Fish or Soccer, go get in the game!

About the author...Jolene graduated from Montana State University with a degree in Sociology. She lives in Montana with her husband and two daughters. You can visit her website A+ Activities at www.aactivities.com/