How the Olympic Games Can Teach Your Kids About Good Sportsmanship

Talking to Your Kids About the Olympics and Being a
Talking to Your Kids About the Olympics and Being a

Has anyone else noticed that some of the youngest Olympic athletes are modeling the classiest behavior?

Gabby Douglas, the 16-year-old gymnastics champion, shrugged off critiques of her hairstyle.

"Are you kidding me? I just made history. And you're focusing on my hair?" she said in USA Today. "I just want to say, we're all beautiful inside out. I don't think people should be worried about that. Nothing is going to change," she said.

Seventeen-year-old gold-medal swimmer Missy Franklin, who lives in Colorado, dedicated her Olympic victories to the victims in her hometown of the movie theater massacre that killed 12 and injured 58.

Related: 16 ways to celebrate the Olympics with your kids

"Everything I've done here is for them," she said immediately after breaking the 200-meter backstroke world record for her third gold medal. It has recently be announced that Missy will forgo the Olympic prize money and potentially millions of dollars in endorsements in order to maintain her amateur status, to swim competitively in college.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Women's Soccer team conducts planned celebrations after every goal. Holding up a sign wishing a former teammate a happy birthday is one thing, but pre-planned team cartwheels, or the entire team doing "the worm" after each goal? I can't image that's the kind of thing that would be tolerated in my town's youth soccer league. It comes off as gloating, tacky and rude.

We teach our kids not to brag. If one of my twins gets a higher grade than her sister, she doesn't rub it in her face. In Little League and softball, the kids high-five the opposing team, telling each other, "good game, good game." As parents, we teach our kids to win and lose with some measure of grace.

Related: 10 bizarre souvenirs from the 2012 Olympic games

On the other hand, the U.S. Men's Basketball team has taken some heat for their 153-76 rout against Nigeria, which I think is unfair. Coach Mike Kryzewski denied that the Americans intended to embarrass their opponents. Instead, he said that the Nigerians could reasonably have been offended had his team had not played their hardest.

"You have to take a shot every 24 seconds, and the shots we took happened to be hit," Coach K modestly told reporters after the game.

In fact, Nigerian basketball player Koko Archibong seemed to agree with Coach K's perspective. "On the one side, it's terrible to get whooped like that," he told reporters. "But on the other side, it was something impressive to be a part of, impressive to witness in person."

To me, playing anything less than your best at this level is disrespectful to your opponents. Case in point: the shameful match-throwing in the preliminary Olympic badminton games.

Related: Why quitting can actually be good for your kids ... and you

When we see the U.S. Women's Soccer team celebrating each goal, even my 8-year-old daughter is aghast. "That doesn't seem very nice," she said. "That would make me feel bad if I was on the other team.

Watching the athletes behavior, on and off the field, certainly provides ample opportunity to talk to kids about the whole idea of "it's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game."

- By Joslyn Gray
Follow Joslyn on Babble

For 10 life lessons kids can learn from Olympians, visit Babble!


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