The Importance of Sportsmanship

Parent’s Perspective – May 2014  Newsletter – Sports Brain


As a parent, one of the most valuable lessons we can teach our children is sportsmanship. The idea of winning with grace and losing with dignity is important not only on the field but in our entire lives. Recently, my son has gone through some challenges in the area of sportsmanship. In the most simplistic terms, a close friend of his is a bad loser. In the old days, this meant storming off the field and needing to be left alone for a while until the feelings blew over. Today, however, life is different and a simple post on Facebook or Instagram not only enhances those negative feeling but can give those hard feelings a life of their own.

In this story, my son and his friend, who are both in middle school, play on two teams which compete against each other. This time, my son’s team won the game. After the game, the friend refused to shake hands with the other team, would not speak to my son and stormed out of the building. On the car ride home my son tried calling and texting him but his friend would not reply.

A few hours later his friend took to Instagram complaining about the game and the referees. After dozens of comments from family and friends, the Instagram post took on a life of its own with people commenting on the situation even though they really had no idea what had happened or what it was about. While I knew it was not easy for him, I insisted that my son stay out of the debate and not comment on the Instagram feed. My lesson for him was that by refraining from commenting, he was winning with grace instead of rubbing the victory in his friend’s face.

Sportsmanship is a part of life and incredibly important in our future lives. As a parent, we want to develop children that are productive, happy and well-adjusted members of our community.

Sportsmanship teaches us to:

  • Treat everyone with respect
  • Put team goals ahead of individual goals
  • Support your team
  • Try your best
  • Display grace and dignity, whether you win or lose


Each of these qualities are desirable to every teacher and every employer. So if we can teach these qualities to our children at a young age, they will certainly benefit throughout their entire lives. Additionally, as I tell my children, nobody wants to play with a person who is a bad sport. The athlete slamming the ball against the wall because someone missed a shot or swearing at a teammate for doing something wrong is never the person you want to play with.


Another valuable sportsmanship lesson is that life is not always fair. Like life, sports are not always fair. Sometimes the ball takes a bad bounce, sometimes the referee misses a call. Sports can be a wonderful training ground for similar challenges in life. Just as we sometimes win and sometimes lose in sports, we will certainly have wins and losses in our lives. It is how we deal with those losses that makes us a stronger person.


Failures on the field should not be debilitating but should create a path to greater understanding and serve as a motivation toward success. We have all heard the Thomas Edison story about failing to be successful after 9000 attempts to make a light bulb instead of viewing his actions as 9000 failures, Edison explained that he discovered 9000 ways not to make a light bulb, thereby making success closer to his grasp. After another 1000 attempts, Edison was successful. Our greatest successes in life do not come easily. They are the ones we work the hardest for. No Olympic athlete is going to tell you it was easy to win a gold medal. They will tell you they worked harder for that medal than they have worked for anything in their lives.


So as parents, we need to take it upon ourselves to teach our children to be good winners and good losers. When we are gracious in victory, it is easier to lose with dignity. There will always be another game.

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