How to Deal With Bad Sportsmanship


Sportsmanship is the way your young athlete acts on and off the field, including how he reacts to situations in the game and how he treats teammates, opponents, officials and coaches. Being upset about a bad play or a game loss is natural, but a child who throws a fit, lashes out at others or beats himself up shows poor sportsmanship. A change in your junior athlete's attitude and the way he responds to situations allows him to enjoy the sport and learn positive coping methods to use in all aspects of his life.

  • Express your expectations for your child's behavior on and off the field. Tell him exactly what is and isn't allowed. You might say, "You can't blame your teammates or yell at the referees when you lose a game."

  • Set and enforce consequences for poor sportsmanship. For example, if he pushes another player out of anger or uses obscenities during the game, he might lose playing time.

  • Address his displays of poor sportsmanship when you see them. If he throws his glove and stomps off the field after his baseball team loses, point out the specific behaviors that were unsportsmanlike.

  • Praise your young athlete when he displays good sportsmanship. Tell him specifically what he did correctly. Say, "I liked the way you helped up your opponent when you two collided."

  • Meet with your child's coach if the poor sportsmanship is a consistent problem. Ask for suggestions from the coach. Come up with a plan to help your child deal with sports disappointments so he gets guidance from you and his coach.

  • Monitor your own responses to situations during the game. Avoid badmouthing the coach, players or referees. This gives your child the impression that those negative behaviors are acceptable.

  • Ease up on the pressure you place on your young athlete. He may feel frustrated or not know how to handle the pressure if he feels he falls short of your expectations.

  • Build your child's confidence in the sport since low self-esteem can sometimes lead to poor sportsmanship. Point out his strengths. Help him practice on his weaker skills.


  • Photo Credit Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images
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