The pressure teens face during competitive sports may lead to poor sportsmanship, but parents can play a role in how their teen athletes respond on the field. Teens often develop behaviors and attitudes based on the actions, comments and pressure they feel from adults -- particularly the coaches and parents. Keeping a positive attitude and displaying good sportsmanship develops a sense of fairness, pride and self-esteem in young athletes. Your support and conscious efforts to teach good sportsmanship can turn your athlete into a star -- even if her team doesn't win the big game.
Talk to your teen at the beginning of the sports season about the importance of sportsmanship and attitude. Let her know you expect her to show respect on the field -- to her coach, teammates, opponents and the referees. Talk about ways she can stay positive, such as cheering on her teammates when she's not playing instead of sulking about not getting playing time.
Show your support for your teen by watching her play. Go to games and tournaments. Drive her to practices or to the sporting goods store when she needs new equipment. Keep your enthusiasm in check so you don't add to any stress she already feels out on the field or court.
Note your teen athlete's attitude while she's playing and while she's around interacting with team members. Look for signs of stress or negativity, such as nervousness that affects her concentration or getting emotional when she makes a mistake in the game.
Monitor the coach's attitude and expectations of the players. A coach who only focuses on winning or who has a negative attitude can influence your teen's behaviors. Talk to the coach privately if you have concerns.
Cheer from the stands in a positive way without sideline coaching. Watch how you respond to bad calls or good plays by the opponents. Booing the other team or yelling rude comments to the ref teaches your teen that those disrespectful behaviors are acceptable.
Congratulate your teen athlete after a competition even if she doesn't come out on top. Pointing out mistakes or giving your teen suggestions to improve next time can send her the message that you were disappointed in her performance. Let her decide if she wants to talk about her performance.
Point out both positive and negative examples of sportsmanship. You might say, "I liked the way your whole team shook hands with the other team," or, "It's too bad the other coach had to yell at the ref like that." Even professional athletes give you chances to emphasize a positive attitude.
Your teen needs proper nutrition and rest to keep her fueled for her sport. Encourage her to develop healthy habits so she can perform at her best and have the energy to stay positive.