Sportsmanship: the rules of character

In any sport that we play or compete in there are rules that we follow so that everyone has the same opportunities and winning is based on who does better on the task at hand.  Following those rules is good sportsmanship.  At the same time keeping things safe in a competition is important too.  So some sports have a ‘no pushing’ rule, or they may tell you how many individuals can be on the floor.  This keeps things safe.  Following rules like taking turns keeps things fair. 

There are other kinds of rules though that are not written down but are still important to a game being fun for all the participants.  These are rules of character.  Rules of character are unwritten rules that ask us to be polite, kind and respectful to the coach, the referee, to our teammates, and to the opposing team. 

If we follow the rules of character we are going to cheer others on and say “good game’, at the end of a game with a great attitude and smile.  We will choose not to yell at our teammate or opponent, we are not going to BOO them, we are not going to argue with them.  We may not agree and we may express our disagreement, but those practicing good sportsmanship will do so with respect, kindness and politely.  

Winning or losing reactions

We all know that when we play a game that it is more fun and fair when everyone follows the rules, without having to be reminded and told to do so.  But when the game is over how we react to the winning or losing of the game also has an affect on us and those that we played with.
Even though losing is never fun and winning does make us feel good there are ways of handling this that are fair to other and demonstrate good sportsmanship.  But first we need to get past the question about is it fair if someone wins or loses.  In todays world of children, there are parents and teachers that believe that it will hurt the self esteem of the child if they lose in a game or competition and so they have all sorts of ways of no one having lost, including not playing games that there are obvious winners.
Well the fact is that if we play a game and everyone plays by the rules – then it is fair if someone wins and others do not win.  The question that needs to be addressed is how do we react?  We can teach our children that it is great to desire to win – that is healthy.  In fact for me to want to be the best is healthy.  What is not healthy is when we get down on ourselves, when we decide that we are not good enough or when we cry, pout, throw a tantrum because we did not win.  Thats not fair to others and especially to those that did better on that particular day and time.  And it is not heathy for us, because those types of feelings and reactions do not allow us to go back to work on our game.
These questions are so important for everyone to discuss with their children and think about themselves before we face that situation.  We are not going to win all of the time / nor are we going to lose all of the time, even if it feels that way when we do.  So what is an appropriate reaction?