When the peewee soccer game doesn't go your team's way -- and you see your little guy fighting back tears, it's likely that your first impulse is to scoop him up in your arms, tell him that the other team didn't deserve to win and that you think he and his buddies did so much better. But what stops you in your tracks is that common sense and the sports etiquette you learned as a kid kick in -- and you realize that you need to help him be the better person by congratulating his opponents.
1. Lead by Example
Demonstrate sportsmanship by walking up to the coach and the other parents of the team and shaking their hands. Exchange pleasant conversation and give congratulatory statements. If you personally know some of the kids on the other team, refer to their specific plays and exceptional skills. Their proud parents would love to hear you say, "Boy, your Tommy really has some kick going on!" or "Julie is super fast!" -- and your little one will see how well-received your comments are.
2. Show Him the Way
Assist the coach in lining up the team for the customary hand-slapping and final congratulatory walk-thru. If your child balks, gently remind her that next time it might be her team's turn to win -- and she'll want the other team to congratulate them. If necessary, walk with your kiddo and show her how it's done. You should immediately shut down name calling, booing, or any negative behavior whether by players or over-zealous parents. At this age, the main goal of playing any sport is to learn the rules, develop good sportsmanship and most importantly, have tons of fun. Winning is secondary.
3. Extend Hospitality
If your team has plenty of drinks and snacks to go around, offer some to the opposing team, the coach and parents. Or, if everyone is up for pizza or burgers after the congratulations are complete, invite the opposing team and their families to join you and your group. Show the entire team how to be good sports by being sociable and pleasant to the winning group.
4. Lay the Groundwork
Chances are that your child will participate in more sports as he gets older. Let him know that success in sports is about trying to do the best he can do -- and that you're proud of him as long as he tries hard. Once the excitement of the game is over, talk about good sportsmanship -- and that being a sore loser doesn't change the outcome of the game and will only make him feel worse, not better. Don't wait until the next game to explain to your little one that the real winners are the ones who know how to win and how to lose because everybody wins sometimes -- and everybody loses sometimes.
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