How to Be a “good Sport”
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In this paper, I will be listing strategies for encouraging sport participation and good sportsmanship in our youth as proposed by Dr. Darrell J. Burnett. Dr. Burnett has written many books, pamphlets, and audio tapes regarding youth sport participation. He has also been a coach himself. He is a licensed clinical psychologist and a certified sports psychologist, specializing in youth sports. The specific strategies I will cite were found from his articles and books on his website, www.djburnett.com, as well as another website that posts published youth sports articles, www.youth-sports.com, in an article titled “Teaching Youngsters How to be Good Sports”.
Many people believe that youth participation in sports can lead to many benefits, one of which is the development of good sportsmanship attitudes and values such as honesty, fairness, and citizenship. Increased self-esteem, socialization, and skill building are also benefits along with physical aspects including better cardiovascular health, less obesity and Type II Diabetes, etc. These are values, attitudes, and ways of living that seem more frequently challenged and lacking in our current society. Teaching good sportsmanship values and attitudes in youth can lead to further consideration and implementation in adulthood. Although a major step, participation alone cannot instill these values. There are always exceptions and different situations, therefore; adult/parent guidance, assistance, and role-modeling are critical. We will start with some of the techniques parents need to implement on themselves in order to encourage good sportsmanship as well as become good sports themselves.
Dr. Burnett suggests making a Coaching Behavior Checklist. The first on the list is to praise kids just for participating. One of the draw-backs of sports is that someone has to lose. How your child handles his or her loss is important. It is important to emphasize that winning is not everything. Show that you, their team, and their coach all value their hard work and improvement. This is also a time to emphasize the importance of setting goals and sticking with them. Small steps can be helpful, such as, “You havent scored any goals yet this season but maybe next game you can work to get an assist.” All items on the checklist provide opportunities to healthy attitudes and values.
Other items for the checklist include: looking for and emphasizing the positives, staying calm when kids make mistakes and helping them learn from their mistakes, making sure to have reasonable and realistic expectations, treating the children with respect, reminding kids not to get down on themselves, maintaining a “Fun is #1” attitude, and emphasizing teamwork. All these help coaches and parents to stay on track to be able to function as a role-model and guide to good sportsmanship and a healthy lifestyle.
Dr. Burnett also includes a “Sportsmanship Checklist for Kids.” Some points on the list include: abiding by the rules of the game, avoiding arguments, sharing responsibilities of the team, providing opportunities for everyone to play, playing fair, following directions, and offering encouragement. This checklist is a guideline for appropriate and correct behavior. Some coaches and parents turn this checklist into a contract that players have to sign to ensure fair and fun participation. These can also be behaviors the children are rewarded for, such as providing a gold star to the player who showed the most good will towards the other team. Parents can also provide plaques to all the players at the end of the season recognizing those who were best at certain aspects of good sportsmanship throughout the year. These are practical examples of things the adults can do to encourage good sportsmanship as rewarding and fun.
Including the family in the sport can also serve as great motivation and role-modeling for the child. Families can have practice games together or parents can practice certain aspects of the game with the child such as catching if the child felt they fell short in that area the previous game. Sharing in the joy and experience with the child can make them feel more confident and proud (Burnett).
I believe Dr. Burnetts strategies and approach most closely reflect the Cognitive Theory. In reading the description in our text book Parent-Child Relations: An Introduction to Parenting by Jerry Bigner, this theory can explain the parents actions along with the values and thought processes those actions are attempting to incorporate into the children. The cognitive theory, in relation to Jean Piagets explanation, is a guide to understanding the acquirement and development of mental processes in a person as they grow from childhood to adolescence. I like the term comprehensive guide because I feel Dr. Burnetts approach is exactly that. He aims to provide structure and an outline of healthy experiences and participation. The text also states that experiences in ones environment, both physical and social, are central