Feature Article - May 2007
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A Child's-Eye View

Expanding Your Audience to the Younger Set

By Kellye Whitney

Are You a Good Sport?
12 Questions to Ask to Find Out

Emphasizing good sportsmanship in kids can be tough. First you have to make sure young sports enthusiasts know what good sportsmanship means and understand how to demonstrate the concept on the field. Second, you have to promote good sportsmanship in a tangible way so that it manifests in a child's behavior on a consistent basis.

It's no great stretch to emphasize the relevant characteristics verbally during play, but are you setting a good example for the children? If your answer is automatically yes, are you sure? Ask yourself the following questions about your behavior as a leader of recreation programming for youth. If you answer yes to all of the questions, you are indeed a good sport and are therefore entitled to teach others how to win, and to lose, gracefully. If not…

1. Are you being polite to all of the participants in any given situation or event? That includes opponents, fans in the stands, concession workers and officials working the field.
2. When a play doesn't go your way, can you hold your tongue in the heat of the moment?
3. It's tempting to act the man or woman in charge when your audience is no higher than your knee, but are you really treating your young charges with respect?
4. Are you being respectful of their innate desire to learn?
5. Are you listening to them or just talking at them?
6. Are you encouraging them to think creatively to solve problems and to appreciate the benefits of the environment in which they are playing?
7. Are you getting into the game and participating with them, or are you directing from the sidelines?
8. Do you react well when your team loses? What does your protocol include: celebrating on the field, tearful outbursts, good-natured ribbing or handshakes on the field? How does your reaction to a loss or a win encourage good sportsmanship?
9. Do you avoid arguments with officials over bad or questionable calls?
10. Do you cheer for your team even when the score is 50 to 7 and you're the seven?
11. Are you backing up the rules of the game with the rules? Meaning, if you want the kids to abide by the rules of the game, have you tested them to ensure they know what they are? Do you know? When was the last time you looked at a printed copy of the rules?
12. Are you actively looking for examples of good sportsmanship in professional athletes to point out to your young charges? Are you also pointing out bad examples, making comparisons and asking kids questions about the differences?