"It is your response to winning and losing that makes you a winner or a loser" - Harry Sheehy, Dartmouth Athletic Director & former coach, Williams College.
As Fall sports wind down, from the soccer and football fields to the volleyball and tennis courts, there are ample opportunities to drive home the importance of being a good sport right now. The discussion of being a gracious winner has been a recurring topic in our home as of late, as our beloved Oregon Ducks paddle ever closer to a chance at a national championship.
Our culture embraces winners, and certainly no one wants to lose. But just as we use sports to embolden our youth and teach them life lessons, so too should we emphasize the value of their behavior AFTER the last whistle has been blown. Recently two of our children witnessed first hand how easily one can be perceived as being a sore loser, without ever uttering a word. Following the last month's USC-Oregon game at the LA Coliseum, as we walked back to the car (our allegiance clearly visible on our apparel) past herds of post-game Trojan tailgaters, across Exposition Park, and back onto the campus, only one USC fan congratulated us on our win. Just ONE!
As collegiate football fanatics, we've had the pleasure of attending games in venues steeped in tradition and graciousness, such as Williams Brice Stadium - home of the South Carolina Gamecocks, where winners and losers alike congratulate the opponent and thank them for a good game. Period. As the late, legendary Coach John Wooden said, "Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out."
There's an article at KidsHealth.org about teaching our kids how to be a good sport, including telling your opponents "Good Game", regardless of who won. Check it out, then print it out and share with your children before their last soccer, football or volleyball game has been played. And as they line up to exchange the obligatory high-fives with the other team, remind them that the hand-slap gesture is meaningless without a smile on their face and sincerity in their heart. THAT is what will truly make them good sports!