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Kids and Sportsmanship: Part 2

Kids and Sportsmanship: Part 2

Article by Clive Scarff, sharing the conclusion of his two-part series on kids, sports and sportsmanship.

Advanced Skills Development, De-Emphasized Sportsmanship

In the previous installment of Kids and Sportsmanship I spoke of the new era of kids’ sports; an age of advanced skills development but de-emphasized sportsmanship. With so much emphasis on skills development, the teaching – or even notion – of sportsmanship has gone by the wayside. Most NHL fans know what the Norris Trophy is, what the Rocket Richard Trophy is, but I wonder how many know what the Lady Byng trophy is awarded for? (It is awarded for sportsmanship, and the NHL is to be commended for having such a trophy, which dates back to 1925.)

I am not suggesting coaches and parents today do not care about sportsmanship, but typically they react to bad sportsmanship, as opposed to promoting good sportsmanship. The white board comes out to explain technical strategies, but rarely, if ever, is there a scheduled lesson teaching kids about sportsmanship, what sportsmanship is, and what actions typify it.

What is Sportsmanship?

kids and sportsmanship clive scarff‘Sportsmanship’ is an abstract term for many young kids, so it is inevitable that when you broach the subject with them the first thing they are going to ask is, “What is sportsmanship?” You can kill two birds with one stone by explaining with the use of examples:

[unordered_list style=”bullet”]
  • Shaking the other team’s hands after a game;
  • Congratulating an opposing player on a good play even in the midst of a game;
  • Recognizing referees are human and bound to make the odd mistake, so not pointing out their mistakes when they do happen;
  • Cheering an opposing player when he/she gets up after getting hurt;
  • Never quitting a game because you are losing;
  • Helping another player to their feet after they have fallen down;
  • Stopping to help someone if they get hurt.

Sharing Stories, Building Life Skills

This last bullet point leads me to another good sporting story. The story is of a famous Australian runner, John Landy, running a one-mile race back in 1956. Another runner tripped and fell, forcing the trailing Landy to jump over the fallen runner, and in doing so his spikes scraped the arm of his competitor. Rather than continue running, Landy stopped and came back to see if the other man was okay. He was, and amazingly Landy then ran and caught up to the rest of the pack, and passed them to win the race. A wonderful example to share with your kids, of great athleticism, and even better, sportsmanship.

It soon becomes easy to see how any individual who possesses the skills of sportsmanship is not going to forget those skills the moment they step off the playing field. Suddenly the child, who might have joined in a schoolyard fight, breaks one up. Or better yet, talks a bully down. The athlete who typically helps another athlete up, now runs to the assistance of a senior who has slipped and fallen (and can’t get up). The player who routinely thanks a referee for refereeing their game, starts thanking their parents for the meal put before them. The benefits are limitless, and can come directly from something we used to think of as ‘just sports’.

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Clive Scarff runs the Mini-Me Sports Academy for pre-schoolers, and is a freelance writer. He lives in North Vancouver with his two boys. He can be reached at [email protected] or through the Facebook page

*Photo credit: Veronica Brown,

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