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Being a Good Sport ... A Valuable Trait

Friday, July 6, 2018

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I watched the U.S. Open played at Shinnecock Hills and couldn't believe the behavior exhibited by professional golfer Phil Michelson on the 13th green. Michelson watched as his putt rolled by the hole, picking up speed as it approached a steep slope. What happened next blew my mind: Michelson then ran and intercepted the ball as it was still rolling, and hit it back up the hill. Totally unacceptable in miniature golf, let alone the PGA! He received a penalty for his actions, but perhaps more importantly, the incident certainly tarnished his reputation. Michelson ultimately apologized to his fans days later.

His behavior reminded me of a scene in my soon-to-be-published children's book "Don't Be That KID! At Home." In the scene, our KID tosses a game board over when he's not winning. Now let's be honest, no one likes to lose but whether playing a sport, a board game, video game or trying out for a part in a play, it's important to take a step back and ask yourself, "How important is this? Will I care about this game a week from today? A month? A year?" And also important, remind yourself that your actions speak volumes about your character. It is in these "teachable moments" that parents, teachers and caregivers have the opportunity to discuss good sportsmanship behaviors with their children. Behaviors such as always playing your best and always playing fairly and honestly. Equally critical is showing respect for other players.

Before your child begins to play in team sports, stress the importance of listening to coaches, following the rules, playing fairly, respecting all players, supporting the team, respecting officials' decisions, accepting defeat and being a gracious winner. As parents and teachers we are our children's most important role models. Keep this in mind as you play your own games or sports, and when you are cheering from the sidelines. And if you are unable to attend a game, rather than asking your child if he or she won the game, try asking "Did you have fun?" This will teach your child that it isn't just the end result but rather the entire process of playing. The goal is to teach your child that the reason he or she is playing a sport or game is to have fun.

I am often asked by parents if they should let their child win at a game. I respond that I believe always winning, at anything, sets your child up for unrealistic expectations. There are valuable lessons to be learned by losing a game. It teaches your child to be flexible and resilient, and enables him to cope with disappointment. It is an opportunity to discuss approaching difficult situations in a positive manner. There are activities in the "Don't Be That KID! At School Resource Guide" that can assist you to help your child remain positive, no matter what the circumstances.

Learning to be a good sport at a young age is a character trait that will help your child throughout his or her entire life!

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