Sportiquette: Tips for raising polite kids, no matter the arena
By Scott Gale
We all want polite kids. We tell them to behave when visiting family or friends. We teach them to mind their manners: say “yes ma’am or no sir,” chew with your mouth closed or ask to be excused, and the list goes on. But, what about on the field, diamond or arena? Youth athletics can be the perfect place to teach and raise well-behaved, considerate kids, and with Little League right around the corner, now’s a good time to start preparing.
1. Be the all-star example. We’ve all known or seen a parent have a meltdown on the sideline, and would certainly not want our kids to behave the same way. As a parent, you set the tone for how your kids will treat other players, coaches and officials. Speak to the coach with respect. Thank the officials – who are typically volunteers – after each game. Congratulate other players for a job-well done. Your kids will respond appropriately when they see you practice what you preach.
2. Help them handle a strike-out, with dignity. Sure, winning is nice, but use athletics as an opportunity to instill the ability to bounce back when things get rough. No one likes to lose. But a loss, just like in life, can be an opportunity to grow, improve and learn valuable lessons. Discuss how the loss makes them feel, what he or she can do next time to help the team win and where their own skills can be improved.
3. Teach them to read the plays. Communication is needed for healthy relationships, in the business world and to succeed in life. Games on the field teach kids how to communicate clearly and concisely. To accurately pass a ball to another player, they’ll have to learn non-verbal communication, and in some cases verbal skills. If they seem frustrated on the field, perhaps, talking to them about how they communicate with their coaches or fellow players is the place to start.
4. Encourage discipline by running the drills. Athletics can teach kids how to be disciplined, even when they don’t feel like it. By holding them accountable to the commitment they made for attending practice and games or for extra drills the coach asks them to do on their own, you will help them keep the bigger, more important commitments they encounter as they get older.
5. Show them the value of blowing the whistle. Help them learn honesty and integrity by encouraging them to follow the rules of the game. It can be tempting to not report if a ball was really out – especially in a solo sport like tennis – but encouraging honest behavior will produce kids who are trustworthy and well liked by others.
6. Bring you’re A-game and make it last. It’s GAME TIME, and with it comes traditions that teach values and respect, such as the playing of the national anthem. Youth sports can be some of the most precious memories of both parenting and childhood. Fond memories and good friends around a common goal help to create healthy, happy kids, who grow up to be productive, polite adults.
Scott Gale is a youth football coach, dad-in-the-trenches and successful residential developer. He is the author of Your Family Constitution: A Modern Approach to Family Values and Household Structure (Spectrum International Press, January 2010) which walks readers through his experiences of parenting in the trenches and guides parents through constructing their own family constitution – making parenting easier and families more engaged.