Teaching sportsmanship to kids feature image

Teaching Sportsmanship To Kids

We are a competitive bunch and thrive off of a competitive atmosphere but sportsmanship was always heavily ingrained in me as a child. 

The definition of sportsmanship is being fair and kind to others whether you win or lose. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy a victory or be sad about losing but you don’t diminish other’s achievements or rub it in their faces!

At the age of 5, my little guy already has a pretty big competitive streak. I’m not sure if it is genetic or he’s picked it up from me, but it is definitely there. It’s gotten so bad that he threw a tantrum the other day because daddy “beat him” at puzzles. I’m not sure how you compete during a family puzzle, but apparently, we were and he lost. The tantrum that ensued lasted 20 minutes of crying about how horrible daddy was and his refusal to take part in anything else we were doing until he calmed down, followed by another 20 minutes of giving daddy the stink eye.

This is when we realised we hadn’t been paying enough attention to teaching him sportsmanship. I am a firm believer in hard work and dedication to something and that it pays off and I have done my best to try and teach him this, forgetting that in the real world, regardless of who deserves to win, sometimes you just don’t.

This time might have only been a puzzle but as a competitive little guy who takes part and tries hard in a variety of different sports and activities, I wouldn’t want this sort of display with something else more important or with other children involved. My favourite phrase that I try to remember when I am in competitive mode is:

Try and beat them, not beat them down. 

Sportsmanship is the first step of learning this as well as how to be a winner that people admire rather than resent and a loser that can still enjoy taking part and appreciating themselves so this is what we have been focusing on. Some of the ways we do this are:

Encourage Practice

If there is something he wants to take part in or be good at, we sign him up and make him practice. On the days he doesn’t want to we encourage him to do it, reminding him why he started in the first place. If he doesn’t want to go 3 times in a row we re-discuss it and evaluate whether it is something he actually wants to do. This gives him a sense of effort and hard work to be proud of if he wins or succeeds, as well as giving him an appreciation for what other successful people go through and do to win or do well.

practice, teaching kids sportsmanship

Not “Letting” Him Win

It’s one thing to give them a fighting chance or a handicap for yourself to take into account size/age etc, but I honestly don’t think letting kids win does them any favours. If anything it gives them a false sense of achievement and stops them from trying their hardest so we try not to just hand it to him. That being said, he has an uncanny ability to beat me at board games so he’s going to be getting a handicap soon!!


Win or lose, as long as his behaviour is appropriate and he’s not throwing tantrums or rubbing it in someone’s face, he gets praise. We love him regardless and I don’t want him believing that praise is reward or performance driven. As long as he shows a level of sportsmanship, we are proud of him and we will tell him all about it, whether we are commiserating or celebrating as a family.

Praising Others

We have started to implement a rule that after a game or competition he either shakes hands or says “good game” or “well done” to his opponents. That way, win or lose he is acknowledging the other’s part and if he wins, he is recognising how everyone else plays and if he loses it forces him to congratulate the winner rather than sulk off or tantrum. Laughing in someone else’s face or showboating isn’t tolerated, at home or anywhere else and we try to nip it in the bud if he gets overexcited and silly as well!

His recent sports day was the perfect example of putting this into practice and we were very proud of how he conducted himself. He didn’t do as well in the running as he thought he would but there were no tears and although disappointed he didn’t tantrum or show off. He had been practising his egg and spoon race and when he won he was very excited but didn’t rub it in anyone’s face and chatted to his friends afterwards about how well they all did. We are incredibly proud of the little boy he is becoming and thankfully he is starting to get the idea of sportsmanship now (although he still doesn’t like to lose to daddy – or me!) long may it continue.

sports day teaching kids sportsmanship

Ultimately in this house, if you are going to compete and aim to be successful, you are going to do it the right way and deserve it which is why sportsmanship is so important! Do you have any experiences of dealing with sportsmanship (or lack of) in children? let me know in the comments. 

Why teaching sportsmanship to kids is important, how we knew it was time to start developing these skills and the tantrum that started it all off!

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Written by Charlotte

Founder at The Mummy Toolbox


  • Toughcookiemommy (#)
    August 24th, 2017

    It is so important for kids to learn good sportsmanship. Now if only the parents of these kids at sporting events could learn it too.

  • Musings of a tired mummy...zzz... (#)
    August 23rd, 2017

    Sportsmanship is so important! Last year my son didn’t win anything at sports day whereas my daughter won nearly everything. This year Matt won a race but was then boasting 🙁

  • Newcastle Family Life (#)
    August 23rd, 2017

    I agree with this my little ones are 4 and 2 and I am trying to instill sportsmanship in them x

  • Amanda Rosson (#)
    August 23rd, 2017

    Great post with a great message! It is so important for kids to learn good sportsmanship early on! Loved what you said about not “letting” them win and how it’s good to praise others win or lose!

  • Tiffany Haywood (#)
    August 23rd, 2017

    I love ‘not letting him win’ that has been something we have always practiced with our kids. This year will be the first year they are all in sports so I know I will be putting a lot of these tools to use. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Sarah | Digital Motherhood (#)
    August 22nd, 2017

    Good advice – we realised at sports day this year that our 6 year old isn;t competitive in the slightest. Too away with the fairies to care! Lol

  • Karen (#)
    August 22nd, 2017

    I go through this every year with my 2 when sports day comes, I have to keep explaining that it does matter if they don’t win.

  • Crystal (#)
    August 22nd, 2017

    My nephew is so competitive to the point that playing monopoly is losing results in a very bad attitude for him. He is getting better as a teen but it was bad for a bit there!

  • Nazrin (#)
    August 22nd, 2017

    Such an important and relative message to our children! You don’t get everything your way. If you want to successful you will only do so by doing things the right way! I love this so much.


  • Kaity | With Kids and Coffee (#)
    August 22nd, 2017

    Such a great list that I will be saving for later! We are just starting to get into sports with our oldest, and I definitely want to have a game plan (haha) for teaching how to be good sports.

  • Leta (#)
    August 22nd, 2017

    Interesting post. I’m never sure about competitiveness, it can be such a negative quality, but it sounds like you have sussed how to keep it in check.

  • Rese (#)
    August 22nd, 2017

    I am not the least bit competitive and thankfully, my kids aren’t either. However, we can’ t play games with my husband because he is awful with the competitiveness. It’s comical now

  • Amy Desrosiers (#)
    August 22nd, 2017

    My kids are very competitive when it comes to winning. I kind of hate it when the same one always excels.

  • Ana De- Jesus (#)
    August 22nd, 2017

    I agree that praising them and playing fairly will show them how to demonstrate good sportsmanship and help them as they get older x

  • Terri Steffes (#)
    August 21st, 2017

    I agree! We were raised the same way. Win, but to be gracious about it. I love the ideas presented here. I want to give this post to all my neighbors!

  • Katrina (#)
    August 21st, 2017

    Iv always been a fan of good sportsmanship and clapping no matter who wins and always being happy for them, I look forward to teaching my son the theory of it’s taking part that counts not the winning

  • five little doves (#)
    August 21st, 2017

    I love this, it’s such an important quality to instil into our children. Praising others is so important, I love that my children are happy for others successes.

  • Tiffany (#)
    August 21st, 2017

    I love the positive messages you have in this post. It’s so important for kids to enjoy sport and competition while at the same time valuing sportsmanship.

  • Emma (#)
    August 21st, 2017

    We teach the boys good manners and kindness. When one of us achieve something we celebrate that, it’s important to note other people’s successes as much as our own.

  • ChrissyAdventures (#)
    August 21st, 2017

    More people need to be teaching sportsmanship at an early age. Somehow there was an entire generation that grew up thinking they deserved a trophy for doing nothing and when they lose, they are bad losers. I am so happy you are teaching your young (an that he’s a good winner too).

  • Kara (#)
    August 21st, 2017

    We have instilled manners and sportmanship in the kids. Eliza even got a certificate at sports day for “cheering on her peers” which I thought was a lovely idea

  • Emily Smith (#)
    August 21st, 2017

    These are such great points when it comes to instilling sportsmanship in our children. One that stands out is praising others. We tend to focus so much on our child and how we interact with them, but encouraging them to praise and encourage other players is really key in forming great relationships with their team members.

  • Ava (#)
    August 21st, 2017

    Good tips definitely will share…

  • Jon (#)
    August 21st, 2017

    Great post this. It’s such an important concept for them to have so that they don’t start RAGING OUT when things don’t go their way!

  • Clare Nicholls (#)
    August 16th, 2017

    Nanny Ben has just read this and thought how brilliant it was. She said

    “Is that really you writing all that?”

    • Charlotte (#)
      August 16th, 2017

      haha yes, it is me 🙂 I can’t believe nanny saw it!

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