How to build great sportsmanship in young athletes

When we watch a big game on television, we see competitors shaking hands at the end of the match. This, of course, is an example of good sportsmanship, but it should and does run deeper than this. A bonus of playing competitive sports is that it teaches young people how to deal with adversity, team building, and how to react to authority figures. Fair behaviour, generosity and treating people with dignity and respect is the very crux of good sportsmanship, so let’s take a look at how you can build this in young athletes.

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Winning and losing

For all the times an athlete wins, they have many losses behind them. Even Olympic gold medal winners have a list of defeats – defeats that should be accepted with grace and rationality. Teaching young athletes to accept the lost games and to move on to give it their all in the next game is a key part of good sportsmanship. You could show them the statistics of well-known teams to illustrate the wins and the losses.

Good role models

Sport is filled with some excellent – and some not so excellent – role models. Find out who young athletes in the team idolise, or perhaps suggest some athletes from history and/or contemporary sports and show them examples of good sportsmanship. When training and playing, suggest that the young athletes imagine themselves as these role models – what would they do in this situation?

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Give it your all

The best way to instil good sportsmanship is to encourage an atmosphere of always trying our best, whether during training with this week’s netball drill or in the way we treat others. Training hard and knowing they are trying their best will help young athletes to have confidence in themselves and to treat others as they wish to be treated – with respect. Ideas for netball drills are available from resources such as

Enjoy it!

With competitions looming, it can sometimes be easy for young athletes to forget that sports can be fun. For young athletes in particular, the fun element should not be lost in their training and in their playing. Keep the sport fun and they will want to continue playing and develop good sportsmanship from the joy they find in sport.