By Coach Chris Beacom, M. Ed.

Sportsmanship can be complicated, but teaching this concept to players at a young age is critical. If they don’t learn how to win gracefully and lose with dignity when they are just starting out, chances are they won’t magically adopt such a disposition when they get older.

Consider the “winning” piece of Sportsmanship. Being swept up in the joy of a victory is to be expected—regardless of the importance of the game—winning is validation and we are supposed to feel good after we win. But one who practices Sportsmanship reserves a sense of respect for his fallen foe. He knows the sting of defeat and empathizes with his opponent.

Conversely, the vanquished endures not only the pain of losing but also the expectation that he act with grace towards his foe. Here is where the true Sportsman has an opportunity to show his mettle by extending a hand and a congratulatory word or two to his opponent. Not easy to be sure. It is unfair of parents and coaches to expect such behavior if it is not discussed and modeled at home and on the athletic field.

Look for opportunities to point out Sportsmanship at home … whether you’re watching a sporting event on television or playing a board game with the family, our kids constantly look to us for guidance. So, find time to discuss what it means to be both considerate in victory and humble in defeat; the implications stretch beyond the playing fields and we owe it to our children to prepare them for a world that values the noble trait of Sportsmanship.