Sportsmanship

Rebecca made a good comment on my last post about games:

There is something to be said, though, about learning to temper one’s competitiveness according to the other person’s nature. There are people with whom I will display much more competitive behavior because they like to play that way, and others with whom I will relax and show very little competition at all. I can remember when I was a kid what a turn-off it was when somebody was too competitive for the group they were in, or—to a lesser degree—not competitive enough. This is still true for me, and I would guess much more so with kids.

I said that playing games with your kids was a good way for them to learn good sportsmanship, but that assumes that the parent displays good sportsmanship herself (or himself). We can all picture parents that don’t, and I’m sure we can picture times that we ourselves haven’t been the best sports that we could be.

My first rule of playing with kids is that it doesn’t matter whether I win or lose. Losing should be accepted in cheerfully. Because honestly, it’s a GAME, it’s supposed to be fun. And that is something I wish I had realized in my basketball playing days. If you put pressure on yourself to win, and beat yourself up when you make a mistake, you DON’T play better, and you miss the point of the game.

This is always so much easier to see in someone else. One of my younger brothers was a great basketball player, but he could take himself out of the game so easily by missing a few shots or making a few dumb plays, because he would get so mad at himself.

We need to model an engaged, competitive spirit in games that doesn’t depend on whether you are winning or losing. Because truly, the fun of the game is playing it to the best of your ability.

…and playing it fairly. I talk to people all the time that mention how when they play some game (Monopoly, etc.) everyone is always cheating. Maybe that’s just the way their family plays the game and it’s all in good fun. But playing a game fairly is pretty high on my list of MUSTS for game playing.

Scrupulous honesty should be observed in keeping score and playing by the rules, even when people aren’t watching, even when you are getting killed by the other players.

When you are playing games with little kids, who don’t have a prayer of winning, you should have a relaxed attitude towards the game. I don’t mean letting them win. From a very young age, Caleb disdained that idea. But if you are playing the alphabet game (trying to find letters on signs in order of the alphabet when you are driving), and you find all the letters as fast as you would if you were playing against your adult brothers, then the game will be over before the kids get a chance to play.

I like the way Rebecca put it: “temper your competitiveness according to the other players’ natures.” That doesn’t mean you have to lose, and it will mean different things to different people. But it’s a good idea to keep in mind.

I believe in playing to win, because I remember after losing to my dad in games for years, when I finally was able to beat him, it really meant something. It was a right of passage.

But in playing to win, it’s important to not vilify the other person/team in our minds. We need to keep a check on ourselves as parents to be a good example and really congratulate the other player/team if we lose. I remember lots of sullen “good-games” uttered after basketball games that I didn’t mean a bit. Practicing empathy with the winners can help us get over the disappointment of losing. And unlike what I thought when I was younger, that doesn’t mean you are doomed to be a loser.

Playing games in a positive, confident frame of mind makes you more likely to play well, and thus win. Worrying about missing/losing/getting yelled at, will only make you play worse.

In snowy south jersey....

In snowy south jersey….

I’ve been stranded away from home due to the weather canceling my bus trip, so the Meet the Tools series has been delayed until I’m able to get home.

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