20 ways to nurture good sportsmanship in young athletes

By Janis Meredith | Posted 4/5/2017

Learning good sportsmanship should be one of the cornerstone objectives of youth sports.

Here are some ways parents can help nurture good sportsmanship in their young athletes:

1.    Learn when to bite your tongue and be ready to listen when your child is ready to talk.

2.   Let your child learn to fight his own battles and grow from his struggles.

3.   Be an example of good sportsmanship. Start by not making negative comments about other teams or coaches.

4.   Let the coach do his job. Tips at home are okay when asked for, but pushing your kids like a coach would may cause tension in your relationship.

5.   Be positive in tough situations. Being negative will not help your kids and will only hurt your relationship with them.

6.   Love your kids no matter how they perform.

7.   Respect their choices of when to play a sport and when to move on. Forcing them to play a game they no longer enjoy is not the answer.

8.   Support the whole team, not just your child. Cheer for the team and go to the games even if your child is not a starter or gets injured.

9.   Remember that what is best for the team may not be what you and your child want. He may not play the position he wants or get the playing time you want, but as he learns to be a team player he will begin to understand his role.

10.   Avoid pushing your child; stick with support and encouragement.

11.   Remember that you can’t and shouldn’t fix everything for your child. It’s best to let him figure it out—with your support of course.

12.   Keep a sense of humor and look for the little victories in every game.

13.   Ignore the negative remarks you hear in the stands or after a game.

14.   Make the car ride home a game-free zone. Let your child be the one to bring up the game.

15.   Have a life outside of sports. Enjoy other things with your kids that have nothing to do with sports.

16.   Always look for the best in your kid. Build up the good you see in him.

17.   Encourage your child to work hard. Don’t let him off the hook when he needs to spend extra time practicing.

18.   Let your kids fail. There are times when we should exhibit grace, love and support in a tough situation, but more often than not, we must let our kids fail and get back up again.

19.   Encourage your child to be a leader. Other kids look up to athletes and he should take that responsibility seriously.

20.   Don’t let your kids blame others. Kids like to place the blame on the ref, their teammates, or their coach. Encourage them to take responsibility for their actions and mistakes instead.

SEE ALSO: The USA Football Youth Football Parents 101 video course

 Youth sports provides boundless opportunities for athletes to learn life-changing lessons. With your guidance, they will make the most of their experiences and learn the true meaning of good sportsmanship.

Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach’s wife, writes a sports parenting blog called jbmthinks.com. Her latest book 11 Habits for Happy and Positive Sports Parents is on Amazon.