Teaching Kids About Sportsmanship

Group of young athletes in blue jerseys gathered in field

In small-town USA, sports are a huge part of how communities come together. In fact, sports are embedded into the vast majority of American cultures. Whether you’re from the north or south, midwest or east coast, teamwork and friendly competition seem to be deep-seeded topics that impact many childhoods and daydreams.

And with so many of us growing up with these things woven into our daily lives, it’s only natural that sportsmanship continues to be a core value among us all. We strive to win with determination and lose with grace; to be a team player, and know when to fold ’em. Here are some great ways to continue cultivating proper sportsmanship among all ages and all sports:

Young women playing volleyball in gym

Our 17 Best Sportsmanships Practices

  • Practice hard: Every player needs practice, even the ones with the most talent.
  • Always play fair: Cheaters never truly win.
  • Accept official rulings: Don’t fight with refs or umpires. You will ruin your reputation.
  • Encourage teammates: Cheer them on!
  • Listen to your coach: Your coach is an integral part of the game.
  • Learn from mistakes: Use any mistake as a lesson to learn and do better at the next play.
  • Be a team player: Congratulate your teammates. Encourage them. And never discourage their play.
  • Don’t make excuses: When you make a mistake, own up to it.
  • No “trash” talking: It’s rude and a low blow to others.
  • Stay positive: Negative talk will not be helpful on the field or court.
  • Avoid arguments: Listen to authorities and do your best with the talent and know-how that you have.
  • Always be modest & humble: No one likes an athlete without humility.

  • Respect your opponents: Do not make fun, condescend, or be degrading to your opponents at any time. There is no game or competition without them.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself: You’ll get them next time; with more practice, focus, and experience. On any given day, anyone can be beaten.
  • Be on time: Whether it’s for practice or warm-ups. Show respect to your coaches and your team.
  • Lose with dignity: Don’t be a sore loser. Congratulate your opponent and hold your head high. The true test of a good sport comes after their first loss. Encourage kids to be conscious of their behavior on and off the field!
  • WIN WITH CLASS: This holds a combination of all the aforementioned practices.

Remember, because sports are such an important part of our culture, they often play a large role in how our kids develop and socialize.  It’s important to remember that how we model (attitude, language and how we respect others) all plays into how our kiddos react in certain circumstances.

Kids who have a positive attitude normally have a lot more fun and build a lifelong love for the game they’re playing! Win or lose, they should know that having fun is just as important as anything else. The goal for kids playing on a team should be to work towards a common goal, build camaraderie, and learn how to show grace to others and themselves.

If you’re a coach, make sure you are consistently modeling this behavior and communicating to your players about its importance on a daily basis. Have team goals to work toward or meetings where everyone contributes to the build up of a fellow teammate. There are so many ways to cultivate this type of positive environment. And make sure the parents are on board as well, showing proper sportsmanship on the sidelines.

Young football players gathered in huddle during game

INSPIRE THEM: The Best Sportsmanships Quotes & Posters to Share With Kids

“A lot of young players don’t really know much about the history of the game and a lot of them are missing out on what the game is all about, especially the whole concept of sportsmanship and teamwork.” – Kareem Abdul-Jabba

“I think sportsmanship is knowing that it is a game, that we are only as good as our opponents, and whether you win or lose, to always give 100 percent.” – Sue Wicks

“I would advise all youths aspiring to athletic fame or a professional career to practice clean living, fair play and good sportsmanship.” – Major Taylor

“One man practicing sportsmanship is far better than a hundred teaching it.” – Knute Rockne

“Sportsmanship is the ethical and moral dimension of sports. It is demonstrated by a number of attributes and attitudes such as fair play, respect for the rules and traditions of the sport and various traits of good character including integrity (abiding by the letter and spirit of the rules and concepts of honor); demonstrated respect for others including teammates, opponents, officials and spectators; accountability, self-control, and graciousness in victory and defeat.” – Michael Josephson

“The most important lesson I’ve learned from sports is how to be not only a gracious winner, but a good loser as well. Not everyone wins all the time, as a matter of fact, no one wins all the time. Winning is the easy part, losing is really tough. But, you learn more from one loss than you do from a million wins. You learn a lot about sportsmanship.” – Amy Van Dyken

“Good sportsmanship goes beyond the game; it starts with respect.” – Tommy Hilfiger

“If character is what you do when no one is watching, then sportsmanship is that conduct with everybody watching.” – Bob Ley

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” – John Wooden

“If you win through bad sportsmanship that’s no real victory.” – Babe Didrikson Zaharias

Sportsmanships Posters for Children