10 Ways to Teach Kids a Winning Attitude – On and Off the Field

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Millions of children participate in extracurricular activities such as sports, dance, cheerleading and theater.

I am reminded by the words of Grantland Rice who wrote, : “For when The One Great Scorer comes and writes against your name He marks not whether you won or lose, but how you performed in the game.”

You will have many opportunities over the years to reinforce this message with your children.

In fact, it is about how you play. It’s how you behave (and as parents, how we behave) before, during and even after the event which speaks volumes about your character.

Here are 10 ways you can foster a winning mentality on and off the pitch:

1. If your child loses, don’t focus on the score. Instead, emphasize the effort and improvement of your child, such as extra practice or good teamwork. Ask questions that connect wins and losses to specific behaviors. For example, ask, “What was it your team or you did to contribute to the victory?” or “What can your team or you do differently next time?”

2. Play sportsmanship both on and off the field. Teach your children to lose and win gracefully and how to have good sportsmanship. Play cooperative games to encourage your children, and then, when they are ready, switch over to competitive games. Favorite stuffed animals are also a great way to show sore losers and gloating.

3. Disguise lessons through family fun: TV shows and films can be a great way to teach important life skills and demonstrate them in a fun and entertaining manner. You can often use moments of teaching from watching TV sports or movies to start a discussion about sportsmanship.

4. The lesson “there’s no me in team” can be applied both on and off the field. You can prepare your children for future success by teaching them how to motivate frustrated teammates, to play to their strengths, and to stick together. Encourage each player in your child’s squad from the sidelines at every game. Your child will notice.

5. Allow your children to take the initiative. If Paige, a ten-year old girl, feels that she is not getting enough playing time at school then resist the urge to intervene. Ask instead, “What can I do to earn more time playing?” Then, role-play with her how to approach the coach.

6. Play the No-Fault Game: Implement a policy of no-fault, no-excuses for your children. Remind Daniel, 13, that referees are just like players in their skill level. Since he cannot control the referee, or his teammates, ask him what else he could do to affect the outcome of the match.

7. Call No Fouls. Even if your opponent is insulting you, don’t respond. Encourage your children to do the exact same thing. Teach your children not to use “trash talk”; their performance will speak for themselves. When your team wins, you should always be courteous and gracious towards your opponents.

8. Roll with the punches. Turn every missed goal, foul or slip-up into an opportunity to learn for next time. Ask your child, “If you had to do it all over again, how would you change the play?” Then move on. Your child has already felt bad enough, and relies on you to make him feel better.

9. Don’t shout at the coach: Not only is it not helpful to make suggestions, but it also causes kids to disrespect the coach. The whole team will benefit if you let the coach do what she does.

10. Model the behavior you want your children to emulate. You can model all the behavior you want your children to follow, whether you are on the couch, the sideline or the basketball court.

Above all, have fun. Our kids need extracurricular activities to become well-rounded, and more ready for the real world. Scores are important but having fun, listening to the lessons, and cultivating a sense camaraderie and character are more important. Enjoy every moment. Enjoy every minute.

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