When it comes to athletics, one of the most important things that young players learn is not just how to be a better athlete, but how to be a better person. And, that training all starts with having good sportsmanship.
However, sportsmanship is not as easy of a thing to teach as you might think. To create players with strong sportsmanship, coaches have to do a lot of work, starting before the season even begins.
Good sportsmanship starts from the ground up, long before the players even formally meet the coach.
Coaches who truly value sportsmanship should create a special sportsmanship section, complete with policies and procedures related to sportsmanship, in their handbooks and have players and parents read and agree to this section before the season even begins.
These policies should also be made clear to everyone who will come in contact with the team, such as assistant coaches and volunteers. Good coaches remind every adult that they are role models to young athletes and that they should act accordingly.
During the Season
Fostering good sportsmanship can’t all be done via a handbook or via a few meetings early in the season. It takes concentrated effort throughout the entire season.
To start with, coaches should make clear that they will have all sports officials and others working with the team keep a watch for and report any bad sportsmanship. Then, they must follow through on this policy.
Coaches also have to very carefully lead by example, which means not yelling or getting upset during a game. This includes not getting upset at players, referees, or anyone else. Coaches may never be perfect, but they do have to remember their role and do their best to act accordingly.
Obviously, teaching good sportsmanship takes a lot of work and time. But, with consistent effort and the right coach, it definitely can be done.