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Learning To Be A Good Sport

No one wants to be a sore loser, but how do you teach good sportsmanship to children?

The Sochi Winter Olympics, which begin Feb. 7, may be a good starting point. We’ll be glued to events, witnessing triumph and heartbreak. We’ll see a split second separate winners from losers – mere inches determining who medals and proudly stands on the podium and who leaves empty-handed after a lifetime of training and sacrifice.

Granted, a trip to the podium doesn’t guarantee a happy competitor. Take American gymnast McK-ayla Maroney at the 2012 London Summer Olympics. If you just imagined her with a snarled lip accepting her silver medal, you remember one of the enduring images of those games.

How do you teach your kids good sportsmanship? Well, don’t do what I did.

She was the favorite to win gold in the individual vault event, especially after a picture-perfect first vault in the team competition. But the unthinkable happened during the individual competition. She landed on her behind and kissed her gold medal away.

McKayla won team gold, but it’s her disappointed expression for her silver-medal performance that stuck with spectators. It even inspired a meme called “McKayla is not impressed.”

So how do you teach good sportsmanship? Well, don’t do what I did.

I had the bright idea to introduce a little sibling rivalry between my son and daughter to speed up the bedtime routine. When they would protest going to bed, I would inspire them by saying one of them was “winning.”

“Your sister brushed her teeth first. She’s winning.” Or “Your brother is in bed first. He’s winning.”

It worked like a charm for a day. Then it backfired big time. You think McK-ayla Maroney looked sour? You haven’t seen my son and daughter when they think they’re “losing” the bedtime battle. We’re talking tantrum, crying, borderline meltdown. Essentially, the opposite of what you want when struggling to “wind them down” for bedtime.

I’ll tell you who the real losers are: Mom and Dad, who are losing their minds with two kids crying about not winning!

According to the Merri-am-Webster student dictionary, sportsmanship is a noun defined as “fair play, respect for opponents, and gracious behavior in winning or losing.”

Translation: Lose without losing your cool and win without gloating – pretty much the opposite of what Seattle Seahawks’ corner-back Richard Sherman did after beating the 49ers to earn a trip to the Super Bowl.

In terms kids can understand, think poor Charlie Brown. The running joke in the Peanuts comic strip is for bad sport Lucy to pull the football away at the last minute when Charlie Brown tries to kick it. Sorry, Charlie! He falls flat on his face every time.

Remember, it’s not winning or losing, but how you play the game. Just remind me not to get carried away with the games with my own home team.