Raising a Winner – The Ball’s in Your Court
By Richard A. Shulman, Ph.D.
“You’re out!!! No I’m not, I touched the base. That doesn’t matter because you have to touch me!!!” We’ve all heard these arguments from our children at youth sports events and unfortunately, we’ve also heard one like this from an irate parent yelling at the umpire from the sidelines, “He’s out!!!” “No, he’s not; you’re blind; you need glasses; he was safe by a mile!!!! Johnny don’t listen to him, go back to your base you’re safe the umpire was wrong!!!” Many times we get caught up in the moment or in ourselves and forget what we are really supposed to be teaching our children. The first mistake we might make as parents is that we set our children’s ability level from a grown-ups’ perspective. Sometimes we may inaccurately determine or gauge our child’s level or potential. The other mistake we sometimes make is that we feel that our children’s performance is a direct reflection on us.
Playing fairly on and off the field is more than just winning or losing a game. It’s about creating a winning attitude towards life.
Our job as parents is to set the stage, lay the foundation and encourage our children to reach their fullest potential. We can do this by having our children set high standards, encourage them to take responsibility, and provide them with a nurturing environment. As parents we must teach our children the eight cardinal virtues of sideline behavior to ensure their success. We need to promote the notions of responsibility, tolerance, communication, modeling, teamwork, respect, goal setting and autonomy. We need to behave accordingly to ensure that they will too.
The definition of good sportsmanship as determined by the National Association of Secondary School Principals, is “those qualities of behavior, which are characterized by generosity and genuine concern for others. Further, an awareness is expected of the impact of an individual’s influence on the behavior of others. . . a concrete measure of the understanding and commitment to fair play, ethical behavior, and integrity.” The National Federation of State High School Associations, states “the ideals of sportsmanship apply equally to all disciplines”.
The eight cardinal virtues to apply to life are as follows:
- Responsibility. Teach your child to take responsibility and avoid blaming. When your child’s team loses a game, don’t blame it on a bad call, or a teammate’s error. Teach your child to accept his and or his team’s involvement.
- Tolerance. Discuss an attitude of tolerance and expectations with your children. One of the best lessons a person can learn from the field of athletics is how to handle both adversity and defeat… and how to go forward instead of quitting.
- Communication. Take the time to point out examples of both good and poor sportsmanship by others. Open up discussions with your children about being a good sport. Discuss and point out examples of both so that your children can see the differences.
- Modeling. Practice what you preach. Make sure your sportsmanship is flawless. Be the most important role model your child has.
- Teamwork. Reward your children’s ethical behavior and good sportsmanship. Point out and acknowledge to them when they are being good sportsman and working well within the team. Positive reinforcement will also help them learn to believe in themselves.
- Respect. Reinforce the notion of losing graciously. Everyone knows how to act after a victory. Teach your child to handle defeat and handle life’s harshest realities – they will lose more than they win.
- Goal Setting. Define winning as doing your best and trying your hardest. Before participating in a sporting event discuss with your children the definition of winning and have them set their own personal goals and achievements.
- Autonomy. Understand that silence is golden. Sometimes the best thing to say is . . . nothing at all. Allowing your child to act autonomously and become independent allows them to become their own person and develop their own set of values. Yelling out instructions to your children during a game causes them to feel stressed, distracted, and overwhelmed.
We’re all responsible for generating these virtues in our children. Teaching these eight cardinal virtues is of paramount importance as you are providing them with good sportsmanship ethics, and with a set of core values and beliefs that will serve your child through every area of their entire life: school, friends, sharing, honesty, compassion, respect, self-esteem, and discipline. This, in turn, allows them to achieve their goals, leadership positions, and true intimate relationships.