We all love to win. Playing and watching sports become much more enjoyable when your team is winning. I mean, who likes to be on a team that loses all the time or watch your favorite team lose? We get so caught up in the moment that we forget that adults are always serving as role models and teachers to children. How we interact in the world and how we react to certain things stick with them. So, when we react poorly to losing whether that be in the recreational sports that we participate in or the professionals we watch on t.v, they will imitate that.
This was made very apparent before I was even a parent. At my church, I served as a head coach as well as a referee for a children’s basketball league called Upward. As a developmental league whose main goal was to teach kids about Christ while also introducing them to the sport, no one was really exceptionally good nor was winning what mattered. Well, as you can imagine with sports, sometimes the main mission is forgotten and many people become very invested in performance and wins. As the head coach, my team looked to me to set the tone during our games and on days where I got a little too invested in the scoreboard, my kids did too, allowing it to affect their demeanor and mood if we were losing.
While we shouldn’t discourage trying our best and winning, kids in particular should instead be focusing on having fun, learning the fundamentals of the game, sportsmanship, and working together as a team. They should be taught how to be humble in defeat and respect the officials and the calls they make. A five year old should not be arguing with a ref like their call took away their shot at an NBA championship. That develops a habit within them to argue with other authority figures like teachers, family members, and even their own parents.
I found that the games where we played our best and everyone had fun were the games that I didn’t focus on the scoreboard. Instead, I encouraged them to pass the ball to each other and to encourage one another when they did well and even when they made mistakes. When it comes to kids and sports, adults need to check themselves the most. We don’t need to be arguing with the refs or shoving mistakes down our kids’ faces. We need to encourage our kids in wins as well as losses. They may get upset if they don’t perform up to what they believe are their standards and lose a game because of it. That is normal! Comfort them, point out things they did do well, and offer advice and tips to help fix their mistakes! Take them home and offer to practice with them. If they were struggling with free throws, go find a hoop and encourage them to put some extra shots up before their next game!
This helps them to not only get better at their sport, but to never give up simply because of a bad moment. It teaches them to find out what they can learn from that moment and how they can improve themselves in a way that will help them better navigate other tough moments in their lives. This is a life lesson that will stick with them forever. So when it comes to kids and sports, just remember this isn’t the professional leagues. These are children and how you act as an adult sets the precedent for everyone.