Sportsmanship begins with how we think about success

Sportsmanship is expected of our children when they are playing a game whether they win or lose. When they are on a team in a league, many times, they are taught to show sportsmanship after a match by giving the other team a handshake and “good game” to each other. The idea of sportsmanship goes beyond the end of the game formalities.

Playing the game with respect for the rules, the all of the competitors and the spirit of competition is the key to enjoying the activity and improving ourselves physically and mentally. Playing only to win at the cost of showing respect, takes away from the lessons we can learn in the game, the spirit of competition and improvement of our skills.

So how do we teach our children to play their games with respect and grace, win or lose? It begins with how we role model as parents at home, and the attitude that is encouraged at home, even when you are playing a board game as a family.

Do not take this to mean that we should not have winners and losers at home in our game. In any game or competition most of the time someone wins, and someone loses. If our children do not learn this or everyone gets a trophy in a game that clearly has a winner, they are encouraged to believe that they cannot, or worse should not lose in a game. It is not the winning or losing that is critical, it is how we win or how we lose that has an impact on our resilience with school work, a job or anytime that we may have a loss or a win and what we learn from that performance.

I paraphrase John Wooden regarding competition, ‘you would be hard pressed to find a player of mine that would tell you that I ever mentioned winning or losing. Success in anything that you do comes from the satisfaction of mind that you did the best that you could with the capabilities you have.’ Sportsmanship begins with doing the best we can, putting forth our best efforts in preparation and performance and being satisfied that we did so. Of course, we want to win, but more important is did we play the game at our best, did we learn something and are we improving.

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