Competitive team sports can help kids learn about teamwork and setting goals, and are beneficial to children’s self-esteem.
However, there is an unhealthy side of sports competition that puts pressure on kids and takes the fun out of the game. Unhealthy competition is centered on winning and being better than others at all costs.
You can promote healthy sports competition in kids by:
Being a role model. Are you the parent screaming from the sidelines or confronting referees? If you want to yell at a game, make sure it’s encouraging and sportsmanlike: “Good move,” or “Way to go!”
Focusing on the positives. When you’re on the way home after a game, discuss what your child did well, not what they did wrong or who won or lost.
Avoiding comparisons. Comparing your child to the star player on the team to improve their game will make them feel inferior. Also avoid telling your child they did better than someone else to boost their ego.
Listening to your child. Organized team sports aren’t for everyone. Let your child choose the activity they will get the most enjoyment out of.
Wolfgang Schädler, who has been the head coach for the US national luge team since 1986, and will be again at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, sums up sports competition perfectly: “Victory isn’t defined by wins or losses. It is defined by effort. If you can truthfully say, ‘I did the best I could, I gave everything I had,’ then you’re a winner.”