Modeling Good Sportsmanship as a Coach
As a youth basketball coach, teaching kids the importance of good sportsmanship can be challenging. What makes teaching (and modeling) good sportsmanship particularly tricky is that youngsters are bombarded with images of older basketball players trash talking, showboating, and disrespecting opponents and officials. However, keep in mind that you’re fighting the good fight: Good sportsmanship is one of the healthiest ideals you can instill in your players.
Incorporate the following suggestions into your coaching philosophy. They can help make your team one of the most liked and respected teams in the league (and your players the envy of all parents in the stands):
- Talk about sportsmanship outside your team. While your players are going through warm-ups, you can discuss a game they watched on television and ask whether they saw any displays of good sportsmanship. Praising these displays and subtly reinforcing their importance goes a long way toward instilling the right qualities in your players.
- Set a positive tone on game day by shaking hands with the opposing coach. The players, fans, and opposing coaches will notice your gesture of sportsmanship. Plus, it will remind everyone that basketball is just a game and you’re all there for the kids.
- Always be a model of good sportsmanship. Don’t yell at officials or question their judgment. If you aren’t a model of good sportsmanship, you can’t expect your players (or their parents) to be good sports. Your players will take their cue from you, so if you rant and rave about a call, expect your players to show disrespect toward the refs as well.
- Shake hands after the game. Regardless of the outcome, have your players line up and shake hands with the opposing team and its coaches. If your team won, your players should tell their opponents that they played a good game, and if your squad lost, your players should congratulate the opponents on their victory. Another classy move is for your players to shake the officials’ hands following the contest.
- Recognize good sports during your post-game talk. Perhaps one of your players went out of his way after the game to congratulate an opponent who played a strong game. Recognizing such displays reinforces to your players that how they behave during and after games really does matter to you and to all the spectators.