Good Sportsmanship

by Sherry Riter in Lessons of Life

Mackenzie Caquatto competes in the floor exercise during day two of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials
Image: June 20, 2008 – Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images North America

“But I don’t want to,” the little dark haired girl whined as she plead with her mother.

“You will perform and win right now or I will spank you!”

Crying, the little girl in a bright, blue gymnastic leotard was carried to the middle of the room and “dumped” in the middle of the group of four and five year old girls.

I looked down at my little blond daughter and stooped to be eye level with her. “Do you want to do this today?”

With hesitation she asked, “Will you stay here?”

“Oh yes, I will sit with the other parents and watch you,” I replied.

“Okay, then I want to do it so you will see the stuff I learned,” she beamed as she kissed me and skipped to the middle of the mat and sat with the group of girls who were all staring at the now sobbing little girl in the bright, blue leotard.

I felt sorry for the little girl and totally did not want to even acknowledge the mother’s existence on the planet. I didn’t care if Alyssa came in last place as long as she was enjoying the experience and learning new social skills. It was hard to enjoy my bouncy pigtailed little girl while the crying child sobbed throughout the entire routine. The more the little girl cried, the angrier I became at her mother.

When the performance was over, many of the girls hugged each other whether they had fallen right off the mini balance beam or landed in a heap after a cartwheel. They had “completed” a performance and their self-esteem and confidence was growing.

That night I had a lot of explaining to do because Alyssa’s questions were endless about why the mother didn’t comfort her crying child. For a long time after that, our Barbies played and practiced good sportsmanship between each other and the parents.

When people grow up, do they forget how to be a good sport? A good sport is teammates, opponents, coaches, and officials that treat each other with respect by demonstrating a gracious attitude in his conduct throughout the entire event. Good sportsmanship is also reacting with positive self-esteem even during adversity…being a winner even when the score says you and/or your team lost.

Set the example and set the rules with children. If the child watches the parent blow up disrespectfully at the coach or other team members, the message that “It is okay to yell and scream when I’m angry and frustrated,” is conveyed to the child.

Everyone makes mistakes, so do not put undue pressure on a child to perform to perfection like the mother of the little girl in the bright blue leotard. Are you allowing your child to play in a sport to cultivate a pleasurable experience and socially interactive opportunities or to fulfill your dreams of success, college scholarships and riches? No one likes to lose especially when performing to their best ability.

crying childEven though all the children received first place ribbons that day, we all heard the mother of the little crying girl tell her, “You are disgraceful,” as she literally “dragged” her out of the gym. Apparently the little girl did not “win” in the eyes of her mother that day and her mother did not have the child in the class for the right reasons.

Displaying good sportsmanship isn’t always easy, but it is necessary if as humans we are going to hold respect as a value that should be reflected in all actions. Do you teach your children to: shake hands with the winning team after losing; not to argue with the coaches and referees; acknowledging the opponent before the game or competition; assisting a competitor in need; or acknowledging a competitor’s skills to others?


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This post was written by...

Sherry Riter is also known as The Redhead Riter. Sherry is witty, intelligent and addictive as she writes about cooking, family, marriage, failures, blogging tips, art, humor, inspiration, travel, PTSD and aging. Her goal is to inspire, motivate, educate and to make her audience laugh. Sherry embraces being a redhead and helps others to see the redhead point of view…"In some eras redheads were worshipped while others thought us witches. Personally, I like the former and think every day is 'Love a redhead day!'" She can also be found on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Linkedin, tweeting as @TheRedheadRiter and you can subscribe to her free blog feed.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 bluecottonmemory October 21, 2009 at 5:42 am

I remember my first son crying when he started playing soccer. he didn't cry at the practices. he loved it. he didn't cry at the games and refuse to play. He loved it. until the grandparents came. Then he cried, refused to play, and wouldn't do it. I know how the other parent felt. A lot of children want to do stuff and then feel uncomfortable or embarrassed when called on to perform. I grew through my experience. Yes, we were very frustrated. However, we learned how to handle that situation. When we coached soccer, there were other children who would cry, not go on the field, but did so during practice.The more the parent pushes them away, the harder the child cries. I learned that if you embrace them, hug them, sit with them, and say, "You can do this when you're ready," then within about 10 minutes that child will be out there playing. I bet she was a first time mom who needs to learn through experience.

And, yes, kudos to good sportsmanship!


2 Mesina October 21, 2009 at 7:25 am

It doesn't matter what age the person is, no one likes to be treated in such a disgusting manner. But top that with the fact that she is only 4-5 years old, is simply abusive. That mother is displaying the worst sort of abuse possible, raising a child who only sees love through achievements and when those aren't good enough her self esteem will bottom out. That mother doesn't deserve a child, which I know sounds harsh but I cannot imagine for one second how someone could say such rotten things to a little soul. She's throwing the self image of her daughter away. So sad, my heart breaks for her.
But to see such an opposite and fantastic manner in you isn't surprising, but so refreshing! The idea behind the sport is to have fun. What a great job you are doing conveying that over to your daughter. xx


3 Teresha@Marlie and Me October 21, 2009 at 1:48 pm

Good sportsmanship is a lost art. Just look at the behavior of parents and even some coaches at games/meets. I have always disliked stage moms and dads who "coach" from the sidelines. Winning is nice, but it ain't everything. Your child's sense of self-esteem and self-worth is far more valuable than some silly bragging rights you get to spout off at the office on Monday. When I see shows like Toddlers and Tiaras, I think "why isn't this illegal?" These parents clearly live vicariously through their kids and are trying to make up for something this missed out on. We plan to enroll Miss M in sports (if she takes an interest). I want my DD to love competition for the thrill of participation, teamwork, and being healthy– not winning.


4 Liberty October 21, 2009 at 5:03 pm

I really like the statement that you made, "No one likes to lose especially when performing to their best ability." I have never seen it put this way before and it is so true!! My husband and I have always tried to teach our children good sportsmanship and now it will be even more of a priority.

Thanks for stopping by my blog.



5 2 Toddlers and Me October 21, 2009 at 8:02 pm

That's sad about the little girl in the blue leotard. I just read a similar story on another blog about a little boy's soccer team and some of the ridiculous parents that were in attendance. What are these parents thinking? I love sports and hope my kids get involved in them, but can't imagine adding that kind of pressure to them and then expecting them to perform well or even enjoy themselves. Ridiculous.


6 ? Teresa ? October 21, 2009 at 10:34 pm

I hate when I see parents treating their children that way. It makes me so very sad for them. Our children have been in various competitive activities but we've always told them that having fun, being a good sport, making friends and just doing their best is what is important. It is sad when a parent tries to live out their dreams through a child. What a hard, sad life that is for that child. We actually took our youngest 2 daughters out of recreational t-ball because the parents were acting so ugly to each other and to the kids. T-BALL! These kids are tiny and the adults are acting like it was the World Series! There were actual fights and foul language. It was unreal! I just don't know what this world has come to. It is very scary!

Anyway, I'd love it if you could come by my blog and check out 'Wednesdays for Wyatt'. This family really needs our help. There's even a prize being given away, too!

Hope you're having a great day!


Teresa <><


7 nettagyrl October 22, 2009 at 2:56 am

Hi there! Please know I'm not spamming, lol but here is the post I wrote for the tool bar

So read and go crazy and add to all of your blogs! =D


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