My son is playing rugby this term and has had a pretty good season so far. More so than the winning part, what I’ve enjoyed most is watching my children learn how to be part of a team and grow in their confidence around others. Thankfully for us, we have the most amazing coaches who always tells them that it is all about fun and supporting each other.
Sadly, I couldn’t watch the most recent game, so there was a steady stream of photos coming through from my husband. When the guys got home there was the usual round of high fives and “good game” pats on the back. Then my husband told me that at one point during the game, after the opposition (who, I might add, beat our team by miles) had scored a try, my little Superhero ran up to the other team’s coach and gave him a high five. Say what?! Firstly, SUPER PROUD MOM. Secondly, what makes an 8 yo think of that?
Anyway, I just wanted to eat him up after that! And it got me thinking? How do we raise good sportsman? How do we teach that winning, giving your best and pushing yourself to be the best you can be is important? But that showing kindness, empathy and uplifting another person even if they are your opponent is as important!? How do we raise our kids to become the kind sportsmen and women who honour the sport they play by their good character?
Well, this is my list of things that I would want my kids to know. Let me know what you think?
1. Don’t be a sore loser
Let’s be honest, losing sucks! It’s never fun being on the losing team! But, such is life… sometimes we lose. And I believe that it is so important to teach our kids that even in losing, we must maintain a level of self-respect, be gracious. And respect for others (team-mates, opponents, coaches, referees and supporters). You were beaten, deal with it; congratulate the other team, and move on. You will live to win another day.
Our kids need to know to be humble enough to admit the fact that there will always be someone better than you (no matter how good you are, there is always someone out there who can beat you – even Serena Williams and Michael Phelps have tasted defeat at some point), and it’s only a matter of time before you meet them on the sports-field; learn to consider it a privilege to play against a player or team better then you; and give them the credit they deserve for beating you. (Then remind them that you will likely meet again, and you promise to be even better next time around – so they’d better be ready.)
A gracious loser is a sure sign of a future winner.
2. Don’t be a bad winner
It’s so easy to get carried away by the emotions of winning… celebrating can be intoxicating, and when we find ourselves in the throes if victory we tend to go blind to the person or team we beat. The best kind of winner is the one who is able to acknowledge their opponent and give them due respect by thanking them for the privilege of playing the game with them. Make no mistake, the point of competing is to win – but do not let the win go to your head, enjoy it, revel in it, but remember that your opponent deserves acknowledgement for their hard work (after all that could just have easily been your team on the losing side).
A gracious winner is also a sure sign of a future superstar.
3. Show respect for the game (that includes us, parents, as well)
Much of points 1 & 2 can be summarized under the simple word “respect”… we need to respect everyone involved in the game, teammates, coaches, referees, the opposing team and other parents. Our kids will not learn this by themselves, they will learn from watching our every move, so be aware of your own behaviour when supporting your child at their games. If they see or hear us disrespecting the coaches, parents, referees and players, they will follow suit and display the same behaviour. We as parents need to teach respect for the game, and the people involved in it.
4. There is no “I” in TEAM
Whenever our children “lose” their cool (which, let’s be honest, as a sportsman or woman happens fairly easily) it is important that they know how to deal with that emotion. We need to talk to our children that it is important to try and stay calm, that bad behaviour becomes a reflection of the whole team, and gives everyone a bad rep. Rather feed your feelings into playing harder, giving your all. Not to react in a negative way that might reflect badly on the team and their coach. No team member ever makes a mistake on purpose, and it’s only a matter of time before you will make a mistake of your own, so give that team member a hand back up and be sure to let them know that you’re in it together.
5. Always play fair
No matter what happens in the game, it is important to NEVER cheat. That is just not an option! There are rules for a reason. And, in my opinion, if the rules cannot be followed, then the game should not be played. Playing by the rules reflects integrity and self-respect! Our kids need to understand this. To know there is never a need to cheat (see point 1). It goes against the very nature of sports, the whole point of playing in the first place and reveals poor judgement. This is such an important aspect of being a good sportsman. Simple honesty and respect for the rules of the game.
6. Be a cheerleader to anyone who needs it
Being able to put your teammates before yourself reveals character. Sometimes our teammates need to be encouraged and inspired. Maybe the opposition needs a little encouragement or a pat on the back when an injury occurs. Kindness goes a long way!
7. End of game ritual, shake everyone’s hand
There is nothing better than watching two teams walk up to each other and shake hands. No matter how gruelling or intense the game was. It’s the right thing to do!
So hopefully by trying to teach our children these vital points, they will become the sportsmen and women we know and believe they can be!
Jacqui Bester is firstly a wife, and mom to five rambunctious children who drive her nuts and fill her heart with unspeakable joy all in the space of a single day. She writes about her day to day adventures and misadventures in parenting, life and marriage. Jacqui is known for sharing a brutally honest account of her MESSY “mamahood”… the joy, the fun, the laughter and the tears. She enjoys a good mystery-crime novel with a lovely glass of red wine, trying out new foods and restaurants with her hubby on the odd date-night, exploring new places, learning new skills, and generally anything else that calls for a more adventurous approach to life. You can find her over on One Messy Mama.