Good sportsmanship can help kids develop virtues they're going to need later in life.
Sports are part of the school schedule and a normal past-time for children. Some play kickball or catch in front of their house; others play basketball at a neighborhood park, and still others are part of a formal team in a league and train like professionals.
Physical exercise starting at a very early age helps children develop their abilities and complements the hours they spend more sedentary — studying, reading, watching TV, or playing indoor games.
Children are like sponges, constantly learning and absorbing lessons from their environment. It’s important to know how to take advantage of the hours they spend playing sports, and try to ensure that what they learn is in line with our educational plan for them.
Do you want your children to be respectful? It’s important that they read about respect in books and that you tell them at home to be respectful, but it’s also necessary that they assimilate it by putting it into action, such as by applying it in sports. Being respectful finds concrete expression in things like saying hello and goodbye with good manners, listening to your friends and teammates when they propose something, paying attention to what the coach says, seeing your rival team as companions and not as enemies, and accepting defeat with grace.
Even when dealing with sports that are not necessarily played as a team, it’s important to emphasize that many values continue to apply. Children will deal with others who are training for the same sport, with their coach, with their parents, and so on, and continue to have opportunities to put values into practice.
Here are 12 values your child can learn while playing sports. As a whole, they make up what is often called “ sporting spirit” or “good sportsmanship.”
1Dedication and sacrifice
Participating in sports means that children need to get up early and take advantage of their study time. They need to learn how to prioritize their use of time, and to use it intensely. Also, it requires constancy and regularity. They have to practice and play once several times per week and on the weekend. There will be times when it’s an uphill battle, and that’s when you will be able to tell if they’ve truly committed themselves with a sense of responsibility.
2Perseverance and fortitude
All physical exercise is difficult at first, and making progress requires us to constantly push ourselves beyond our comfort zone. Sports can teach children to stand strong in the fight against the obstacles that they will encounter in life.
Sports are often where children first find themselves with responsibilities outside of the home. They need to take care of their equipment, be punctual to their practice sessions and games, and play in the position the coach assigns them, both on good days and on the days when they don’t really feel up to it.
A team is a marvelous opportunity to get to know other children and to create a group of friends. Your kids will spend many hours of their childhood with their teammates, and that can create bonds that last a lifetime. This is even more true if the parents get to know the parents of the other teammates, and establish social relationships with them, such as going to watch the games together.
5Learning to get along with others
When children participate in team sports, they have to learn to cooperate with other children who are not their siblings. They learn to share, to help others, to dialogue, and to teach things to other children outside the context of the classroom and the family.
6Team spirit and teamwork
Sports have the virtue bringing different people together as a team. When they become friends and learn to play and train together, supporting and encouraging each other in victory and defeat, it’s almost a work of art. Teamwork will help each member of the team to discover his or her leadership qualities, need to support other team members and to be supported, and sense of loyalty, whatever their role on the team may be. It helps them to develop humility and realism.
7Motivation and optimism
Sports involve working towards specific achievements. Every game and every practice session can help children have an optimistic, forward-looking view of life. Children are rightly excited about achieving their small goals, such as winning a game, visiting another town where a tournament is being held, or putting on new equipment for the first time. Teaching them to look forward to the future, and that failure is often a necessary step on the way to success, will help them later on to make it through difficult moments of failure, injury, or loss.
Training and practicing for sports is a cumulative, day-by-day process that teaches children the importance of forming good habits. It will help them overcome laziness by offering them motivation and rewards for their efforts.
9Empathy and solidarity
When playing sports, children learn to get inside the head of other players—both their teammates and their competitors—and put themselves in their shoes. They have to try to anticipate what others need and what others will do. This can help them grow in maturity and awaken their generosity.
Learning the importance of paying attention to the words of their coach, of their family, and of their teammates helps them to learn respect, patience, and self-control, even when emotions are running high, such as when a referee makes a bad call.
11Diversity and inclusion
Functional diversity is very clear in sports. Not only are some players more talented, but some are also better at certain aspects of a sport than others. On a team, players are often assigned to a specific role according to their particular abilities. This can teach children to habitually include others, whether it be at school, groups of friends, in their extended family. Plus, playing together on a team can help them to develop friendships with children who are of a different ethnicity, religion, or culture.
When on a team, everyone needs to work together, from the players to the coach, from the goalie, quarterback, or pitcher to the linebackers, midfielders, or catcher. In addition, the children establish a relationship with the spectators who encourage them during the game.