Football, Sportsmanship & Learning What You Teach

by Parent Co. January 18, 2015

No one in our house is fanatical about pro football (we’ve never prayed for our team, for example.) However, hanging out with a game on TV is relaxing part of our winter weekends. I (mostly) enjoy answering my six-year-old girl’s millions of questions about the game. “Why did he do that? What does that mean? What do you think they’ll do next?” We’ve had many, many conversations about where the teams are from, their players, where they stand in the rankings, how many Super bowls they’ve won, and what their team emblems mean. I grew up cheering for the Patriots. I was born in Boston. They’ll always going be my team. At first, our kid also loved the Pats, even though her mother is a 49ers fan. However, this winter I noticed a dark trend: increasing chatter about the Green Bay Packers. Then, one day in December, she confessed. Green Bay is officially her favorite team. Why? Because green is her favorite color and because for some reason she’s obsessed with Wisconsin. We joke about how we all follow different teams. We also talked about how important it is to enjoy the excitement of competition while also being a good sport. I’ve seen my friend’s kids cry, weep and fight over professional sports affiliations. Unfortunately, many people fail to grow out of that behavior. Six year olds are pretty much sore winners and losers by default. It’s kinda cute when they’re young, but quickly becomes obnoxious. Fortunately, watching sports together provides hundreds of teachable moments about sportsmanship. (Actually playing sports provides vastly more, of course.) I’m not going to lie - as a Red Sox fan, I’ve yelled “Yankees Suck” at many games at Fenway Park. But around the kid, I consciously try to model good sportsmanship in five ways:
  1. Explain and discuss the concept of "sportsmanship" - don't take it for granted they understand what it is.
  2. Recognize good efforts and good plays by both teams.
  3. Don’t put individual players down.
  4. Discuss controversial plays, but respect the ref when he makes the call (easier said than done)
  5. Cheer, clap, hoot and have fun when your team makes a good play or wins, but remember respect the fans of the other team. Don't be rude.
As in many areas of modern parenting, I'm learning what I'm actually teaching as I go. Exemplifying good sportsmanship for my daughter has helped me become a better sport. I've supported my kids choice of football teams, and even cheered for Green Bay once or twice. Totally different matter if she ever supports Yankees, of course. FURTHER READING Dads have the overwhelming influence for how kids choose their sports teams. Some further tips on sportsmanship from PBS Parents


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