Dear Dr. Robyn,

What do you do if it’s not the children who are behaving like poor sports but rather, the adults? My daughter is on a team and if anyone makes a mistake at an event, some of the adults point fingers and make that one person feel awful. Can you imagine? How can we help everyone use good sportsmanship?

–Mary N.; Dallas, TX

Dear Mary, That’s a shame. When adults use poor sportsmanship, it not only makes others feel worse but it can also create more poor sports. I applaud you for reaching out.

Let’s talk about what you can do.

1. Call a meeting:

Talk to the decision-makers who impact the team and privately discuss your concerns. Ask those in charge if they could kindly call a meeting to discuss sportsmanship with all those adults who are involved.

  • What are people seeing?
  • What are people feeling?
  • What are the concerns and the problems?

Once all the issues are on the table, something can be done.

2. Ask about goals:

Typically, at the end of the day, everyone wants the same thing; to see their children healthy, happy and fulfilled. Nobody wants their children to feel angry, alone and attacked.

  • How can we all keep these character-based goals in the forefront?
  • What actions should we take and what kinds of actions must be avoided?

If all those involved can get on the same page, they can work together to ensure that the children are on the path to health, happiness and fulfillment.

3. Commit to being positive examples:

We all want our children to grow up to become adults with character. But children must see powerful character in order to develop it. What characteristics do we want our children to embody? Once these characteristics are declared, everyone involved can commit to exemplifying these traits.

4. Speak to the individuals:

It’s easy to get swept up into thinking that there is a mass problem when perhaps the issue is only with a few people. When a handful of adults are making unsportsmanlike choices, it can be best to speak directly with those individuals. Enlist the help of those in charge and explain your concerns. They can then speak to those who are acting in an ill manner and nip the problem in the bud.

5. Create the culture:

Finally, discuss and take action on the culture the group wants to create. What three words come to mind when you all think of what you want for your team? What are the children hoping to feel and see when they practice and compete? How can you all support them? Commit to character and move forward towards positivity.

Here’s to your success!


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