Teaching Kids to Be Good Sports

By Dr. Darrell Burnett

“Sports do not build character. They reveal it.” – Heywood Hale Brown

Youth Sports: The Last Vestige of Sportsmanship

We’re living in an age where the preservation of traditional values can no longer be taken for granted. It seems we need to have reminders (books, movies, newspaper articles, etc.) to maintain our awareness of the importance of preserving the basic human values which are essential to the survival of a community.

It’s no different in the world of sports. The traditional value of sportsmanship is being challenged from all sides: professional, college, high school, and even in youth sports. There are some who say sportsmanship is becoming a lost art and that unless we remind ourselves of the essentials of sportsmanship and strive to maintain the basics of sportsmanship it will gradually fade as other values have done in our society.

In the midst of all this, it seems doubly important that we recommit ourselves to guiding our youth, reminding them what sportsmanship is all about, rewarding them for showing good sportsmanship and showing, by our example, that sportsmanship is still alive and valued in youth sports today.

Here’s a 10-item checklist for kids to follow as they try to develop a habit of good sportsmanship.

1. I abide by the rules of the game.
Part of good sportsmanship is knowing the rules of the game and playing by them. If a player decides to play a given sport, it is the responsibility of that player to learn not only how to play but how to play according to the rules which have been established and standardized to allow competitive games to be played in an orderly fashion. The more a player knows the rules the more that player can enjoy the sport.

2. I try to avoid arguments.
Part of good sportsmanship is anger management. Arguing with officials, coaches or opponents is often simply a misguided effort at “letting off steam” in the heat of competition. A good sport knows that anger can get in the way of a good performance. A good sport knows how to walk away from an argument and to stay focused on the game at hand.

3. I share in the responsibilities of the team.
Good sportsmanship implies that the player on a team is a team player. In other words, the player understands that his or her behavior reflects on the team in general. Moreover, a team player does not condone unsportsmanlike conduct from teammates and reminds players that they all share in the responsibility of promoting good sportsmanship.

4. I give everyone a chance to play according to the rules.
In youth recreational sports the more talented players, if they are good sports, will look out for and encourage the less talented players on the team, cooperating with coaching plans to let everybody play. Unfortunately, some coaches may become so preoccupied with winning at all costs that they never play some players, regardless of the time and effort they put in at daily practices, even when the score warrants clearing the bench.

5. I always play fair.
Honesty and integrity should be an integral part of sports. A player with good sportsmanship does not want a hollow victory which comes as a result of cheating (“dirty” fouls, ineligible players, performance enhancing drugs, etc.)

6. I follow the directions of the coach.
A player with good sportsmanship listens to and follows the directions of the coach, realizing that each player’s decisions affect the rest of the team. If a player has disagreements with the coach, the player discusses the disagreements privately in a civil manner, away from the public eye.

7. I respect the other team’s effort.
Whether the other team plays better, or whether they play worse, the player with good sportsmanship does not use the occasion to put the other team down. In the field of competition respect for opponents is central to good sportsmanship. If an opponent out-performs a player that player accepts it, learns from it, offers no excuses and moves on. If a player out-performs an opponent, that player enjoys the victory, but does not gloat, does not belittle, and does not minimize the opponent’s effort.

8. I offer encouragement to teammates.
A sign of good sportsmanship is a player who praises teammates when they do well and who comforts and encourages them when they make mistakes. Criticizing teammates in the heat of battle simply distracts from the focus of working together and gives the advantage to the opponent who develops a sense of confidence when seeing signs of weakness or a lack of unity in the midst of the competition.

9. I accept the judgment calls of the game officials.
Part of the human condition is making mistakes. Arguing with an official over a judgment call simply wastes energy. The player with good sportsmanship knows that errors may be made, but the player also knows that a game is made up of all the plays and calls from the beginning to the end of the game, not just the call in dispute. The player with good sportsmanship may be upset, but that player also has learned to focus his/her energies back on the game and on doing the best he/she can do for the rest of the game.

10. I end the game smoothly.
When the game is over, pouting, threatening, cajoling have no place in the life of the players with good sportsmanship, who emphasize the joy of participating, regardless of outcome. They’re not devoid of emotions but they know that their efforts to end the competition smoothly, without antagonistic emotional display, will help ensure that the games will continue in the future.

On a final note, a word of caution. We can’t be so naive as to think that by teaching and valuing sportsmanship in our youth we will ensure that they will take these values with them into their young adult and adult sports lives. However, if we don’t expose them to the essentials of sportsmanship, and if we don’t guide them in developing a sense of good sportsmanship, we can all but guarantee that they will fall prey to the young adult and adult world of sports and athletics, with its continued tendency to minimize sportsmanship, and maximize winning as the only real value in competitive athletics.

Sportsmanship Checklist for Kids

1. I abide by the rules of the game.
2. I try to avoid arguments.
3. I share in the responsibilities of the team.
4. I give everyone a chance to play according to the rules.
5. I always play fair.
6. I follow the directions of the coach.
7. I respect the other team’s effort.
8. I offer encouragement to my teammates.
9. I accept the judgment calls of the game officials.
10. I end the game smoothly.

Sportsmanship is the ability to:

  • win without gloating
  • lose without complaining
  • treat your opponent with respect.

Sportsmanship Tips:

  • If you make a mistake, don’t pout or make excuses. Learn from it, and be ready to continue to play.
  • If a teammate makes a mistake, offer encouragement, not criticism.
  • If you win, don’t rub it in.
  • If you lose, don’t make excuses.

Dr. Darrell Burnett is a clinical psychologist and a certified sports psychologist specializing in youth sports. He has been in private practice for 25+ years in Laguna Niguel, California. His book, IT’S JUST A GAME! (Youth, Sports, & Self Esteem: A Guide for Parents), is described at his website, www.djburnett.com, along with his other books, booklets and CDs on youth sports and family life.

Is Baseball Boring? How to Keep Kids Interested

By Doug Bernier

Baseball is boring!

We’ve all heard that said.

Baseball is a game with slower tempo than football, basketball, and hockey. It has less of an adrenaline rush than the X games.  Some people tag baseball as “boring” and not fun to watch or play.

In my experience, people who think that way are usually missing out on one VERY important aspect of the game.

I was reading The Matheny Manifesto during Spring Training of this year. Mike Matheny is the very respected Manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. He was a big league catcher for 13 years and has tremendous baseball knowledge. A particular section of the book stood out to me as he was explaining some of his methods for being a little league coach. After every practice he would teach the players their responsibility during a given play.

Teaching strategy.  In Little League.  Mind blown.

For example, he said that most players didn’t realize that during a ground ball to 3rd base everyone on the field has a responsibility and a place to be. He found that once kids (and even parents) realized this, that the game became less boring.

Playing outfield (which can seem boring, especially in youth leagues) can be more interactive and fun as you are thinking through scenarios of where to be on any ball that is put in play.

The game can slow down at times such as when coach visits the mound, or when the pitcher is having trouble throwing strikes, or maybe even when the pitcher is striking everyone out. But I know that for me, when I am thinking through the game and different situations it makes the game more challenging and fun.

I take this approach even when I am watching games. This helps me to keep learning and makes the game more enjoyable.  My hope is that Pro Baseball Insider can be a tool to help some folks to understand the game a little better, a tool to help those of us who love the game of baseball show others who think baseball is boring that there is more to the game than first meets the eye.

So, is baseball boring?  How to keep kids interested in baseball?   Once kids learn the strategy involved, they will be involved in every play -even if they don’t touch the baseball on that particular play.

So, even at a young age,  learning how to think along with the game can turn baseball from a boring to a strategic often exciting game.

Your turn.  Now here’s the question for you all.  What do you think is the best age to begin teaching baseball strategy?  Certainly there is a LOT to learn in baseball.  Do you know a creative way to make teaching the finer points of baseball strategy and positioning fun to learn?

Doug Bernier, founder of Pro Baseball Insider.com, debuted in the Major Leagues in 2008 with the Colorado Rockies, and has played professional baseball for 13 years. Most recently, Doug signed with the Minnesota Twins in 2013, where he logged time at every infield position except 1st base in 33 Major League games. Currently Doug is with the Twins’ AAA team in Rochester, NY. Originally published at http://probaseballinsider.com/baseball-instruction/fundamentals-of-hitting/baseball-situations-and-hitting/

Fields in bad shape

The city-owned Little League fields in East Haven, CT need some TLC, but the league is getting no help from the city. You may be wondering why the league doesn’t just take matters into their own hands, but many times leagues are not permitted to make improvements to fields when those fields are run owned by the municipality. Let’s hope that someone gets on the stick, or the rake, and helps these kids out.

Around the Cone

Want an example of one of our 52 good, fundamental drills contained inside CoachDeck for Soccer? Around the Cone is a fun shooting drill that teaches players to shoot with both feet from various places on the field, while on the run. And, you can even make it a game your players will love!


NHL playoffs are the greatest!

We’re remiss in our duties not mentioning what an outstanding time of year this is, with NHL playoffs in full swing. You’re not a hockey fan, you say? Give it a chance. Watch tonight’s pivitol Game 2 between the Penguins and Lightning and see if you don’t get hooked. And here is an essay written by our friends at Sports Product Review that will convince you that there is nothing like the NHL playoffs for excitement!

Video from PHIT

PHIT America.org, one of our valued partners, has produced a video explaining what they do and why you should want to support them. Help spread the word about PHIT by making this video go viral!

Throw the book at him

Here’s another one of those cautionary tales we sometimes run into, sadly. A league official who, for some reason, thought that the money coming into his soccer league was his to keep. How sad for the kids.


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