What is acceptable behavior for kids when they win or lose a game? What is good sportsmanship?
After a hard-fought game, can we expect the losing team to jump up and down and cheer, celebrating their opponent’s victory? Come on, that is way too far out there. It’s unrealistic and abnormal to expect that kind of reaction from our kids in defeat.
Youth sports are all about teaching our kids life skills. The old phrase is still true: It’s not about winning or losing; it’s how you play the game.
It’s all about having fun, and losing shouldn’t spoil that goal. Isn’t the most important thing that they gave it their all and tried their hardest?
So then, what do we do about those feelings? Do we just force our kids to be fake and put on a mask? Should we teach our kids to learn how to bury their feelings? This is not good teaching of life skills.
Kids need to learn that they don’t have to like to lose, but they do have to learn how to accept it.
They have to learn that how they express themselves is important.
My two basic rules of thumb are:
• You never have permission to violate someone else’s heart or spirit.
• You should not draw attention to yourself by inappropriate behavior.
Let’s look at these rules. What does it mean to violate the heart or the spirit of someone else? You see this when you yell at the other team, coach or the officials. They can yell words that are hurtful or degrading. Many things are said in frustration that are manipulative, abusive and penetrating. Most of the time, when people yell at officials, parents, kids or coaches, they are looking for someone to blame or find an excuse for why things aren’t going the way they want.
This rule also holds true for winning. You never are allowed to make fun of or “rub it in” to the losing team.
Second, drawing attention to yourself (either on the winning or losing side of the game) is unacceptable behavior. Stomping your feet, throwing things and yelling are examples of ways to draw the focus to yourself.
Remember, you can’t dictate or force the way each person feels after a loss, but you can help them to release those emotions in a healthier way.
So, is crying OK? Sure it is, if it is not done to gain attention and is a heartfelt reaction to the disappointment every kid experiences in some way or another.
If you have questions or comments for Tom Kuyper, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.