Take a swing at teaching good sportsmanship

Emilie Arkin

During a recent outing to watch a Major League Baseball game, Mike Cortina sat alongside a group of youngsters as he witnessed the unraveling of a pitcher.

The pitcher started losing his cool. And the more upset he got, the more mistakes he made. And the more mistakes he made, the more upset he got.

“You could see him yelling at the catcher, and he nearly gave away a grand slam,” the licensed clinical professional counselor.

And his conduct was something he was sure the young fans picked up on, and something that may affect their idea of good sportsmanship.

Professional athletes are not always the best role models when it comes to developing good sportsmanship, Cortina says.

That’s why Cortina says parents have to start early in developing good sportsmanship.

Cortina and soccer coach Grant Miller offer parents tips to help foster good sportsmanship. 

Keep it fun:

The chief goal, according to Miller, is to keep all sports and games loose and fun. “If you let it get too intense, when a kid loses it’s like the end of the world,” he says.

And Miller says that coaches have to be careful, because if they make the game too serious, the kids feed off of that attitude.

Kids have to keep their cool:

“You have to maintain your cool to have a clear mind and perform well in an activity,” Cortina says. 

For children who exhibit anger management issues, parents need to help them recognize the fallout from a tantrum — they yell at people and say things they regret. Encourage your child to rally their teammates rather than yell at them.  

Parents have to be good sports:

Parents have to sideline their own unsportsman-like conduct. “You see parents on the sidelines yelling at kids and coaches. They should be modeling the behavior they want their kids to have,” Cortina says.

Take that final step — every time:

Miller sees to it that all children line up and congratulate their opponent, no matter the outcome of the game. He has seen other teams fail to participate in that final show of respect.

“If a kid asks me, I just tell them it’s important to be a good sport and if another child chooses not to do it, we can’t do anything about it,” he says.