The News Journal (Section: DELAWARE PARENT) – Mar 27, 2005 – Many children are involved in sports through their school or athletic league. Playing sports helps to build character and teaches children to work hard toward a goal.

But how do you explain to a child he or she should be a good sport when the news is filled with professional athletes fighting among themselves and with spectators?

“Parents have a great responsibility to ensure that their children get what they need in terms of support and encouragement, and not place unnecessary pressure on them to win,” said Dr. John Murray, a sports psychologist and author of “Smart Tennis.”

“Children can be taught to be good sports, especially when they face a defeat or a loss. Parents must model good behavior and encourage them to stand tall, smile, congratulate their opponent and look forward to the next game.”

At the YMCA in Glasgow, sports and program director Jerome Garrett coordinates dozens of athletic games and events for children of all ages. He agrees that parents have a responsibility in teaching their children good sportsmanship.

“I feel we can teach children to be good sports mainly by being good role models,” he said. “Children are influenced by the actions of adults that they are around. As adults, we need to conduct ourselves in a way that will be a positive influence on children.”

Adults can instill a sense of fair play in kids who play sports by putting more emphasis on good sportsmanship and the importance of learning how to play sports correctly instead of concentrating on making sure their kids get more playing time than the other kids on the team, Garrett said.

“The YMCA’s sports programs are designed for players of all skill levels,” he said. “We instill the importance of having fun while teaching the character values of honesty, respect, caring and responsibility.”

Adults who serve as coaches also have a responsibility, as parents and as leaders in the sports community.

“It is a coach’s responsibility to try to raise the self-esteem of every player on their team, regardless of their skill level,” said Garrett. “If a coach fails to do this, we run the risk of taking the desire to play sports out of the child. The bottom line is parents just need to get involved.”


I will follow the rules of the game.

I will avoid arguments and fights.

I will play fair.

I will follow the directions of the coach.

I will respect the other team and officials.

I will play my best.

Source: Dr. John Murray, sports psychologist

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.