In an era of enraged athletes, trash-talking sports fans, deceptive reality TV contestants, and even get-ahead business employees, our children can easily learn a warped sense of fair play. At times it gets so bad that one wonders, "Doesn't anyone adhere to the good, old-fashioned sense of losing and winning gracefully?"
Though some believe the answer to this problem lies in eliminating competition altogether, this approach doesn't prepare young people to face life's challenges as adults. Even the apostle Paul used the analogy of competition when he said, "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain" (1 Corinthians 9:24).
Whether children are playing sports in a league with other kids or playing a game at home, they need to learn winning isn't everything. Here are a few tips homeschooling parents can use to eliminate the world's "win at all costs" philosophy and revive the lost art of good sportsmanship:
Be a good role model.
You may think you're a good sport, but take a minute to reflect on what you've said during the Olympics or at a game last week? Did you cheer for all the athletes? How did you react when your favorite athlete or team made a mistake? Were you guilty of arm-chair coaching that criticized or condemned an athlete's performance? How did you respond when your team or country won or lost? Your child is watching and learning from you. Does he see you respecting opposing team members, coaches, and referees, even if calls seem unfair?
Set a standard.
Teach your child a love for the game rather than simply a love of winning. Whether playing at home or with other homeschooling friends and family, your child needs to understand character rules like those found in Horizons 6th-8th Grade Physical Education curriculum from Alpha Omega Publications:
- No cheating to win.
- No losing your temper.
- No blaming other teammates for mistakes or a poor performance.
- No quitting when it looks like you'll lose.
- No flaunting a victory if you win.
- No pouting or failure to shake hands and say "good game" when you lose to an opponent.
Praise your child for who he is.
God has gifted everyone with different talents, and each child has his own personal best. Perhaps you may have been a great volleyball player or track star, but that doesn't mean your child will be. Competing with others doesn't mean one person is less or more. In fact, the outcome of competition usually reveals the humbling fact that there will always be someone better, as well as someone not quite as good, at what you can do.
In the end, it's still possible to be a good sport in today's "me first" world. However, it's time to huddle up and get back to the basics. When good kids are bad sports, we need to seize teachable moments as homeschooling parents and instill Christ-like character that includes good sportsmanship qualities. As the old saying goes, "It's not whether you win or lose that's important, but how you play the game!"