One man practicing sportsmanship is far better than a hundred teaching it. — Knute Rockne


Tight on time? Stick with the 3 Key Takeaways and The Basics. These will provide your athletes with a solid foundation for understanding sportsmanship.

Have more time? Share the TrueSport Talk and discuss how an Olympic athlete can relate to this lesson.

Extra time? Continue on through to Tips & Applications for more valuable information to share with your group.

Looking for more? Explore the Downloads & Additional Resources, which offer additional conversation starters and fun physical activities to support each lesson.

3 Key Takeaways

The Basics

A survey conducted by TNS Worldwide Research in 2010 showed that less people thought sportsmanship was worse now versus a generation ago, the first decline in five years. This is significant as 12 years earlier ESPN reported that 81% of those surveyed believed that sportsmanship had declined at all levels.

Still, sportsmanship should continue to be monitored and emphasized by coaches at all levels of sport. Being a good sport involves striving for success while adhering to playing fair, honestly, and with respect for the rules.

Young people often learn from watching others, which also applies to being a good sport. But according to the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports (YSI), young athletes (ages 10-18) identified five different dimensions to being a good sport:

  1. Committing fully to sport participation
  2. Respecting the rules and officials
  3. Having concern for social conventions (such as being a good loser)
  4. Respecting your opponents
  5. Avoiding having a “win-at-all-costs” mentality

Encouraging these behaviors and demonstrating them yourself will help create an entire team of good sports.

TrueSport Talk

Watch this TrueSport talk with Jimmy Moody or read the lesson aloud

Jimmy Moody, a member of the USA Fencing National Team, knows all about what it means to be a good sport. Like most high-level athletes, Jimmy is a fierce competitor who wants to win, but he still follows the rules and is gracious in both victory and defeat.

Fencing is a combat sport which means that tempers often flare during competition, so sportsmanship and treating your opponent with respect is very important. As a fencer, you can even be disqualified if you fail to salute your opponent and shake hands at the start and end of every match.

This is not always easy, especially after a loss when the opponent has just eliminated you from competition. Yet Jimmy always goes to the line, takes a deep breath, looks his opponent in the eye, and shakes his hand with gratitude. This is important because he knows that it better prepares him for life and reveals his true character. No matter what situation TrueSport athletes encounter during competition, they always treat people with respect and are good sports.

TrueSport Talk Questions

1. What was the main point you took away from the lesson?

2. Can you think of a time when you felt like Jimmy after a loss, yet you still shook your opponent’s hand with respect and gratitude?

3. How can you practice better sportsmanship at camp this week or during your next athletic season?

Tips & Applications

Being A Good Sport Checklist

While sports provide countless opportunities to teach it, sportsmanship, it is still largely a learned behavior. This makes it extra important for coaches and parents to set a good example for their athletes.

To see if you and your athlete’s’ behaviors align with sportsmanlike attitudes and philosophy, always ask yourself the following:

– Is what I did right?

– Was it against the rules?

– Was it fair to everyone involved?

– Would my good sport role models do it?

If you or your athletes answered no to any of those questions or are unsure, take time to think about your attitude and philosophy toward what it means to be a good sport.

(Adapted from the article “Emphasizing Sportsmanship In Youth Sports” from the publication Spotlight Onon Youth Sports)

How TrueSports Act During A Win & A Loss

DURING A WIN: TrueSports are gracious winners that show respect to their opponents regardless of if the outcome is close or not. Good sportsmanship extends itself throughout the competition, not just at the finale, and. it’s always important to:

— Recognize a ‘good play’ by your opponent (when appropriate) during competition

— Genuinely shake hands after competition, and to not boast after the win

— Remember that every game typically has a winner and a loser, which does not devalue your opponent

DURING A LOSS: TrueSports are respectful toward their opponent after a loss, whether the outcome was narrow or wide. When the results are not in your favor, it’s best to genuinely recognize the good play of your opponents while shaking hands and alsoand to:

— Never blame someone else for the loss (like teammates, officials, or coaches)

— Take responsibility for your part in the outcome

— Evaluate your performance and make a planplan to improve on your weak spots for next time

Five Simple Keys To Sportsmanship

According to Craig Hiller’s book, Playing Beyond the Scoreboard, there are five simple keys to good sportsmanship every youth athlete (and parent) should always keep in mind:

Downloads & Additional Resources:

Lesson Companion (PDF)
Printable version of the online lesson: Away from the computer or internet access? Print out and use this handout that’s identical to the online lesson.

Chalk Talk (PDF)
15-minute activity: Understand your athletes’ sportsmanship knowledge and experience by leading a discussion with these conversation starters.

Activity (PDF)
John Wooden’s Sportsmanship Pledge. 5-10 minute activity: Read the Sportsmanship Pledge to your athletes, then see how well they can remember it using a word bank.

Activity (PDF)
Sportsmanship Charades. 10-15 minute activity: See how well your athletes can act out and identify scenes of both good and bad sportsmanship.

Worksheet (PDF)
15 minute quiz: Test your athletes’ knowledge of good sportsmanship with this list of real-life scenarios from professional, collegiate, and Olympic sports. (answers included).

TrueSport Certificate (PDF)
Lesson Certificate: Celebrate your groups’ completion of the A Good Sport lesson with this special certificate.

Parent Handout (PDF)
Handout: Learn the importance of sportsmanship and what being a good sport means and how to incorporate those lessons into everyday life.

Athlete Handout (PDF)
Handout: Have your athletes learn the basics of what being a Good Sport means in their sport to incorporate those learnings into their everyday life.

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