Using Sports to Teach Kids Character

November 26, 2014

Athletic competition provides opportunities for young people to learn and grow. If your children are involved in sports, make the most of the opportunity to teach them about these six important character qualities:

Teachability. No matter how much an athlete accomplishes, he always has room to grow. To excel, he must be eager to learn and willing to accept instruction.

The bigger issue here is humility and respect for authority. The coach might make decisions your child doesn't agree with; the referee or umpire might make a bad call. Still, your child needs to learn to deal with his frustration in a positive way. Learning this on the field or in the gym can translate into respect for other authority figures: teachers, bosses, and police officers.

Integrity. Modeling is the key to teaching your kids integrity. No matter what you say, your kids will remember your actions more than your words. Your integrity is reflected in the way you cheer at your child's game and the way you talk about the game afterward. Would you give back a victory in order to do the right thing? What is your attitude about stretching the rules in order to win? we must call our children to honesty and integrity, and sports provide opportunities to do that.

Perseverance. In the heat of competition, your child will face defeat and failure. In football, he'll fumble the ball or miss a tackle; in softball, she'll strike out; in soccer, he'll let an opponent past him for the game-winning goal. Whenever there's a winner, there is also a loser — in track or swimming, there are many losers. It's important to teach your child how to deal with failure in a positive way. That lesson, learned under pressure, will help prepare him to succeed — in sports and many other areas of life.

Positive attitude. Your child's attitude, whether good or bad, will determine how far she can go in life. Praise your child for her positive attitude above her good performance. Challenge her with the notion that one optimistic person can set the tone for the whole team.

Respect. As you know, there's a lot of posturing and "trash-talking" in sports today — even in kids' games. In the heat of competition, your child may be tempted to put another player down or pump himself up. He's trying to feel important. But it's vital that we teach our kids to show good sportsmanship even during on-the-field battles.  They need to learn to redefine what "winning" means. If they win a game but disrespect or humiliate other players, that is not winning.

Self-esteem. Sports will bring out the unique characteristics of your children. Maybe your son can't jump high enough to touch the net — but he might be a good shooter from the outside. Maybe it's clear your daughter will never be the star of the team — but perhaps her teammates all look to her for encouragement. Whatever the case, your children will learn a lot about their strengths and weaknesses.

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