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Teaching Children About Competition and Sportsmanship

Participating in sports goes beyond winning or losing, but we understand that with sporting activities comes a natural sense of competition. Not all feelings of competitiveness are necessarily negative but learning the importance of healthy competition and good sportsmanship is essential towards a child’s development in their sporting activity to become a respectable athlete. Below we explore how to encourage young athletes to navigate competition with good sportsmanship and integrity by promoting the importance of character-building, teamwork and a positive mental attitude.



Whilst winning will always be exciting, it’s essential to highlight that hard work, determination and improvement are of equal importance too. Instilling the value of effort over outcome will encourage children to focus on giving their best effort and to be proud of that, regardless of the result.



Especially in competitive sports such as football, dance or karate, it is essential to teach children to respect their opponents. Regardless of the skill level or even if they are part of a ‘rival’ team, it should be emphasised to children that every player deserves respect. Simple acts such as shaking hands after games, congratulating opponents and avoiding disrespectful behaviour are all parts of becoming a respectful athlete and individual.



Whether it’s obvious or not, how coaches, parents and mentors act play a significant role in shaping a child’s attitude towards competition and sportsmanship. As a coach/parent/mentor, you should model the behaviours that you want to see in your young athletes. Showing grace in both victory and defeat, applauding good plays from opposing teams, remaining composed in challenging situations or even just acknowledging the efforts of all players will illustrate how to be a good sportsman to your aspiring athletes.



Of course, when playing as part of a team, team success is important, but it is also important to focus on individual growth and development. You should encourage your young athletes to set personal goals, work on improving their skills and celebrate their progress along the way. It should also be emphasised that each player has their own unique journey and that success is measured not just by wins but also by personal growth and resilience.



Mistakes are inevitable, especially in the world of athleticism so it is beneficial to teach children how to embrace failure as a natural part of the learning process and as an opportunity for growth. Learning from mistakes, adjusting strategies and using failure as fuel for improvement are all ways to turn mistakes into learning opportunities. Remind them that even the most successful athletes have faced setbacks along their journey and that resilience is key to long-term success.


A healthy sense of competition can be a powerful force for personal growth and development, especially when it is approached with the right mindset. Teaching children the importance of respect, good sportsmanship and a focused mindset not only helps them to become better athletes, but it also helps them to become better individuals too.