When it comes to teaching young players how to play a sport like basketball, there are many skills that they’ll have to learn in order to succeed on the court. Important skills like passing, shooting, dribbling and moving around with the ball are all things that a well-rounded athlete will need to be good at. However, there is one aspect of youth athletic training that can be difficult to teach and easy to skip over: good sportsmanship. As adults – coaches, teachers and parents alike – are you focusing on teaching sportsmanship?

Being a good sport is an essential skill for all athletes to master. Not only will it make basketball more fun for everyone involved, good sportsmanship is a skill that will carry over into other areas of their lives as well.

9 Ways to Exhibit Great Sportsmanship

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While a parent or coach can explain the tenants of being a good sport every chance they get, actually showcasing these actions will ultimately have a much bigger effect on the team.

1. Applaud great plays, even if it’s not your team

There’s no doubt that you want your team to win every chance they get, however recognizing and applauding great plays- even from the opposing team- can teach players how to be great sports regardless of whether the game is going in their favour

2. Ensure adults are modelling good behaviour

Teaching a young athlete how to be a good sport is also something that can be done through leading by example. It’s no surprise that kids learn from watching what the adults around them do in certain situations and being a good sport will be no different. Making an effort to treat all opposing teams, coaches, officials and teammates with respect at all times is a great way to exhibit great sportsmanlike conduct to young players.

3. Watch your language

Kids pick up the language that is used around them, so reacting to gameplay with anger, arguments, bad language or negative words can teach them that this is the appropriate response. Instead, model positive and encouraging language when talking to or about the coaches, other teams or players and the game as a whole.

4. Share the playing field

Regardless of how great each player is, part of learning great sportsmanship is recognizing that all players deserve equal playing time, especially in younger-aged and house league level sports.

5. Encourage fair play

One of the most unsportsmanlike actions on a court is the act of ignoring the rules and cheating their way through a game. A player who has pride in himself and his ability to be a good sport will want to win by following the rules and simply playing their best.

6. Respect the coach and officials

Regardless of whether the audience or a player agrees with everything the coaches and officials say, respecting their word is a sure sign of a good sport. Often the coach and officials have a more complete view of everything that is happening in the game so their decisions should be treated with respect.

7. Be a team cheerleader

It can be tempting to criticize and critique when someone makes a wrong move on the court. However, making a point to encourage and praise them can show players that being a good sport means helping each individual to be a solid support for their teammates.

8. Be a gracious winner and a good loser

Regardless of whether your team won or lost the game, exhibiting positive and kind responses is a great quality of a good sport.

9. End the game with a handshake

Whether your team wins or loses, there is value in being able to end the game on a positive note. Shaking the opposing teams’ hands before everyone leaves the court helps players to remember that a game shouldn’t dictate their mood and that every player deserves congratulations for the work that they’ve put in.

Good sportsmanship balances competition and respect

It might seem to some players that being a good sport means that they can’t be competitive, but that’s not the case. A player can still hold onto his competitive spirit while still respecting other players, coaches, officials and the game itself. When it comes down to it, playing basketball- or any sport- is all about fun and for many players it can be hard to have fun and enjoy the game if other players are acting like bad sports.