10 Tips for Raising Good Sports
By Christina Katz
In the reality television age, when contestants are either considered superstars-in-the-making or deserving of international ridicule, parents may struggle to instill basic teamwork principles in their children. Becoming members of a team can help kids constructively channel their energy and creativity, and learn about sportsmanship first-hand. The experience will likely challenge and stretch them—and you. Keep these teamwork tips fresh in your mind and your entire family will have a better experience.
1. Commit wisely. Join teams pursuing goals your child is passionate about. It’s great to be good at more than one thing, but resist the urge to over-commit to too many teams at once. If you and your child try to please every coach at once, you won’t be able to please any coaches at all.
2. Communicate consistently. Conflicts, illnesses, and field trips are bound to happen. Try to manage expectations by communicating schedule conflicts to coaches as early as you can. Other parents may not bother, but you don’t want to be one of them.
3. Get in the spirit. You have heard that attitude is everything, and nowhere is this saying more relevant than once your child becomes a team member. If you want your child to be a positive contributor, have regular conversations with her or him about how fortunate he is to be part of such an awesome group.
4. Be an eager learner. Coaches love engaged, enthusiastic players. Assume your child, no matter how capable, has not yet mastered the entire skill set. Skills are an ongoing journey. If your child does not have more to learn, then maybe it’s time to graduate from the team.
5. Contribute your best. We need to ditch the idea that some people are natural born players and others are not. Anyone can contribute something to a team if she or he follows her or his innate instinct to be generous. Discuss with your kids the difference between giving whole-heartedly and brown-nosing.
6. Stay open to constructive criticism. Part of being on a team is responding to criticism. Feedback will not likely be given perfectly every time. The coach and team administrators are also not perfect. Members need to learn to take helpful feedback and, to the best of their ability, try to apply it without pushback.
7. Bounce back from disappointments. Sitting the bench, getting cast as the understudy, making JV instead of varsity—kids need help finding the value in experiences that don’t immediately thrust them into a spotlight. Help them find the silver lining so they can maximize it as they keep growing.
8. Cultivate courtesy. Sometimes you have to say, “Good game,” when you don’t feel that way. Coaches expect kids to park their pouting and behave with humility. Increase the odds your kids will be on their best behavior by being impeccable in your behavior, too. Cultivate your family’s reputation as team players and you will raise good sports.
9. Take confusion to the top. Misunderstanding? Miscommunication? Miffed for any reason? Wait 24 hours before you fire off that email. Taking out your anger or frustration on the coach or administrators hurts your child’s reputation and yours. So compose yourself and ask for help in understanding the situation before you demand heads on a platter.
10. Encourage new members. When you and your child became part of the team, you looked to others to learn the ropes. Once your rookie becomes a veteran, it’s your turn to welcome new members and families. Stick out your hand, introduce yourself, and offer whatever assistance you can. There is only one rule: Keep your comments constructive. Your little team member and fellow families will thank you for rising above gossip and slander.
Christina Katz is a mom, author, and journalist. Find her at christinakatz.com.