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PUBLISHED: 5:09 PM on Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Helping parents, children be better sports
How many times have you seen parents behaving badly at their children's sporting events? It's no surprise that such behavior easily rubs off on kids, affecting the way they participate in sports and interact with others.

With sports activities gearing up for both parents and kids this time of year, a new survey on sportsmanship reveals that more than 63 percent of Americans believe that the current state of sportsmanship is worse than when they were growing up.

Being a better sport starts at home, and parents can get themselves and their kids on the right track by practicing good sportsmanship when playing sports and when participating on the sidelines of their children's games.

According to a survey released by the Awards and Recognition Association, Americans overwhelmingly believe that teaching good sportsmanship is a parental responsibility.

More than 86 percent of respondents reported that a parent is the best person to teach sportsmanship, followed by coaches at 45 percent, teachers at 28 percent and friends at 17 percent.

"There is no doubt that all the rules, coaching and education can't replace what happens at home," said LaVell Edwards, former BYU football coach, parent of three children and Chair of the ARA Sportsmanship Award Selection Panel. "Teaching good sportsmanship starts with parents, and they need to model behavior throughout the entire process."

As such, the ARA's selection panel created simple tips to help teach sportsmanlike behavior at all ages.

Here is some helpful advice for parents:

• Remind kids of the importance of sportsmanship and model that behavior during all competitive activities. Teach children how to be good sports when playing games, whether in the backyard or at the kitchen table.

• Do not put pressure on kids to be the best; instead teach them to enjoy the game for the sport.

• Exhibit good sportsmanship yourself and ask others to do likewise. Bad behavior on the sidelines or in the stands is just as bad as bad behavior on the field.

• Discuss the need for good sportsmanship with your child's teacher or coach.

• Request that school coaches and other parents address good sportsmanship early in the season.

Advice for coaches includes these simple steps:

• Set an example by treating all athletes, coaches, officials and parents respectfully, and cheer on good plays when you see them, even if they're by the other team.

• Don't emphasize competition or winning; stress skills and fair play, especially with younger athletes.

• Praise positive and correct negative behavior immediately.

• Create a zero-tolerance policy for bad behavior...from athletes, other coaches and parents.

• Establish a sportsmanship award at the start of the season, letting parents and athletes know that good on-field behavior will be recognized.

• Demonstrate how to celebrate victory without humiliating the competition, as well as how to lose with dignity.

"We hope that drawing attention to this issue will help encourage good sportsmanship among athletes, coaches and parents," said Rich Zydonik, president of ARA.


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