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What Is Sportsmanship?

Sportsmanship is when people who are playing or watching a sport treat each other with respect. This includes players, parents, coaches, officials, and fans.

How Can I Be a Good Sport?

Whether you’re playing against classmates in gym or competing against another school’s team, there are lots of ways you can be a good sport. Try to:

  • Have a positive attitude and give your best effort.
  • Follow the rules of the game. Accept calls and don't argue with officials.
  • Support your teammates by saying something like, "Good shot" or "Good try." Don’t criticize them if they make a mistake. You wouldn’t want someone blaming you if you miss a shot.
  • Treat the other team with respect and don’t tease or bully. Shake hands before and after the game. Help players up if they fall — even if they’re not on your team.
  • Take pride in giving your best at each practice and game. Winning is fun but don't rub it in. If you lose, accept the loss without getting upset or blaming others.

By being a good sport, you learn respect for others and self-control. These skills can help you even when you’re not competing. They can also help you in your friendships and at school.

What if Adults Aren’t Good Sports?

You’d think that adults would know to practice sportsmanship, but that’s not always the case. Simple shouting from the stands and sidelines can become “trash talk” that’s mean or even threatening. 

What should you do if you hear a parent or coach yelling hurtful things at someone else? Or see people getting into a fight? Talk with an adult you trust. This could be someone like a parent (yours or a friend’s), an assistant coach, or a teacher. 

When everyone is a good sport at practices and games, the focus can stay where it should be — on having fun.

Medically reviewed by: Margaux J. Barnes, PhD
Date reviewed: October 2023