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“Be a Good Sport!” What Makes a Good Sportsman

What Makes a Good Sportsman

It is a common practice that after a youth sports game, both teams line up and shake each other's hands. “Good Game!” We ask them to say with sportsmanlike conduct, even if they are thinking the opposite! Competitiveness is a natural part of growing up, especially at a young age. Comparison and competition are healthy to have towards siblings and friends as they are provided a safe environment where their attitudes can develop productively. Young kids are in a stage of black and white thinking. Goal oriented, anything becomes a game that can be won or lost: Whose toy is bigger or smaller, faster or stronger. Naturally, children feel frustrated and disappointed when they lose or feel they are not the best. These concepts of winning and losing can be harmful to kids. Their interactions with their peers are indicative of how they will respond to competition in the world. Our role as coaches and parents is to teach and build good sportsmanship while managing competitiveness.

What is Sportsmanship?

As parents and coaches, we urge our young players to “Be a Good Sport,” but what does that really mean? Good sportsmanship goes beyond talent and the ability to win. It is an attitude, and a style, worn before, during and after the game is done; therefore, integrity is a key to good sportsmanship. An athlete who shows integrity is consistent in their actions, which are truthful and reflective of their inner values. A Good Sport can’t just be on the field - they have to take their good sportsmanship off the field too!

So What Makes A Good Sport?

During the game, a good sportsman can determine whether your kids have a good experience or not. Plays Fairly by the Rules

Rules in a game are to make it fun and safe. Breaking them is not only unsafe but also dishonest. A victory won by following the rules is an earned one, making it more fun and giving kids a real sense of pride. Winning by cheating hurts everyone involved and doesn’t induce the same feeling of pride and glory. Cheaters never prosper!

Respect the Referees Calls

Referees know the rulebook inside out. They are there to keep the game fair, safe and fun. Respecting the referee's call is as much part of the game as playing it. It is part of being a good team player and having a positive attitude towards the rules. A team player recognizes the rules apply to all their team but knows how to own their individual mistakes without fighting the ref.

Learns (and Leads) by Example

We ask our young athletes to be a Good Sport, but what about parents and coaches? Good sportsmen take on many shapes and forms, including fans and spectators. Friends and family should be supportive and encouraging, emphasizing that winning is not everything. Parents may not always agree with coaches and referees but maintaining a respectful attitude will be contagious. Your athlete will also want to maintain a positive attitude and pass it on to their team. Remaining positive during the game is fun and participative. Losing can be disappointing, but there is much more to the game. As parents and coaches, we must continue to promote the idea of sports as playing to have fun and to be challenged. This will encourage a continued display of positivity and courtesy-on and off the field. Even after the game is done, a good sportsman understands how to be a respectful winner and a gracious loser.

Shakes Hands

Good sportsmen are respectful winners, recognizing their victory was hard earned without any need to gloat about it. They are sure not to put the other team down, and even offer a high five or a handshake at the end of the game. By recognizing it was a “good game” despite the outcome, young athletes are made aware that a good game is not necessarily one that was won but played well between two great teams. There are many officials and volunteers behind every youth sports event. Shaking hands with the opposing team is essential, but recognizing the officials is just as important. Expressing gratitude towards the referees and coaches demonstrates an acknowledgment of the team behind the team, who make the games possible! Avoids Trash Talk On and Off the Field

Being mean to opponents is being disrespectful to them, to the game and to your athlete’s own team. Even if the other team doesn’t hear the comments, it is a poor reflection of integrity and sportsmanship. Talk positively with your athlete after the game, about the loss or victory and speak well of the other teams and parents. Good sportsmanship does not come quickly to children, as they feel naturally competitive. As parents and coaches, we must continue to encourage positive attitudes and construct healthy concepts of winning and losing. By teaching and being a role model, we can help our kids learn this valuable life skill.

Making Grades to Make the Team

Encouraging your athlete to be the next Michael Jordan or Mia Hamm is a great goal, but the reality is, not every student is drafted for college or the big leagues.

Should kids have to make good grades to make the team?

Sports can play an essential part of every young student's development when it comes to learning discipline and teamwork. Physical activity has been shown to contribute to academic and social success directly.

Sports teams, similar to schoolwork, demand participation, dedication, teamwork, and self-motivation.

As parents, we should encourage kids to find their own motivators and commit to their responsibilities. Sports can be a great way to teach children skills for life by tieing the privilege to play organized sports to grades.

Taking sports away as a punishment, by parents or schools, can teach student-athletes about consequence in the real world.Athletics and AcademicsThere have been many scientific studies between the correlation of better grades and sports participation as physical activity can directly impact mental abilities and emotional faculties.

During their school years (ages 8-17), a child’s mental and physical development is in full swing. Studies show there is a significant impact that physical activity has on grades. Exercise improves the oxygen flow to the brain, increasing neurotransmitters such as serotonin and endorphins.

Active kids show to be happier and healthier. Kids involved in physical activity have reduced levels of anxiety and stress and are less likely to become depressed.

Routine exercise promotes higher levels of concentration as well resulting in better memory, critical thinking, and overall learning. Student-athletes are less likely to become involved with substance abuse and more likely to pursue higher education.  

Academics may sometimes feel like a drag for your energetic students, but sports can help to motivate them to study. Organized sports can drive them to study harder to be allowed to stay on the field while they're in high school, helping to lay the foundation for studying in college as well.

The College Cut- Playing By NCAA Rules

If your student-athlete is considering playing a sport in college, they need good grades.

Athletic scholarships are an excellent motivator for studying, but because there are thousands of applicants each year, it is very competitive.

The NCAA implemented a “Make grades to Make the team” policy. At the university level, students must learn time management and prioritization, and the NCAA makes it clear that education comes first.

The academic standard of excellence that the NCAA expect participants to meet. They require their athletes to maintain a 2.3 GPA, and if these requirements are not met, coaches can't give them any playtime.

The NCAA will place a student-athlete on academic probation until they meet the minimum GPA requirements. At the college level, it may sound like a punishment, but it is to motivate the student-athletes to improve their grades and implement better study habits.

If you find that your child is performing poorly in their academics, encourage them to try out for a sports team. This could be the change needed to help motivate them to get an A on their upcoming exams.

Busting the Myth: “No Pain, No Gain”

No pain, no gain. It's a common expression that gets thrown around when growing up.

It's common to hear coaches and parents say, "no pain, no gain,” to their student-athletes during a game or workout.  The myth that if your muscles aren't experiencing pain, then you must not be working hard enough, is not true.

Exercising through the pain, once it is felt, can be thought as showing toughness and durability, when pain is actually the brain's way of telling your body to halt its activity and become aware of correcting the pain - not to keep going!

The body doesn't need to feel as if you destroyed it after a workout. Especially younger student-athletes when they first start to play sports and start lifting weights in the gym.

Young student-athletes need to be taught about their pain, and not to ignore it.

Pain: The Body’s Warning Signal

Pain isn't the only way to measure the success of a workout. Pain is the body warning the brain that something might be going wrong.

Professional trainers can help athletes push through the pain, demanding more of their body, but it doesn't mean your student-athlete should do the same.

The reality is, professional athletes are coached to know their limits, helping to avoid excess on joints and muscles to minimize the risk of serious injury.

Pain is not a challenge to your muscles.

Physical pain is a response our brains send to our bodies to cease activity and evaluate for injury. Even slight discomfort needs to be analyzed and assessed, not ignored.

There is a line between the right pain felt when working out to build muscles and suffering from an injury. If the sensation continues, or swelling occurs, seek medical help immediately. 

The Development of the Body versus Physical Strain

It's no secret, young kids have incredible amounts of energy and are very active compared to adults with desk jobs.

Regular exercise promotes bone growth and muscle development and can positively contribute to cognitive and mental health, which is vital for the developing, school age, athlete.

As student-athletes become introduced to competitive sports, typically between the ages of 8-13, training and technique can be hard on the body even at a young age.

Most sports demand a level of strength and technique training which if taught under a coach’s careful watch can bring safe pain during a gym session.

The developing young body is vulnerable to damage, yet feels better equipped to endure the pain due to their youth.

It's essential during workouts to use correct form when lifting weights and avoid bad habits, such as throwing around weights uncontrolled, to help prevent unwanted injuries.

Make sure your student-athletes are listening to their coaches and doctors when it comes to working out recommendations.

Be Sore, Not in Pain

You don’t have to experience pain to know you’ve reached your limit. When posture and technique become compromised due to fatigue, it’s time to give it a rest.

Talk to your student-athlete about listening to the body, the pain, and professionals about when to stop and when to keep on going.

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