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Good Sport-Poor Sport

Playing with integrity!

As the saying goes, "It doesn't matter if you win or lose, it's how you play the game." A good sport respectfully plays against the opponents until the end of a match-competition-game and loses or wins like a champ. In fact, if you lose with grace and win with humility, you will always be a winner. The winner is not the person who takes home the trophy, but the person that walks away with their head held high, knowing they played fair and did their best, and are grateful for the opportunity.

One can be happy for the winning person and still feel sad they didn’t win. I’m all for a person walking up to the winner and saying, “congratulations, I’m so happy for you”, while they have tears running down their face out of disappointment and sadness because they also worked hard to win. This is positive character building and teaches a child how to identify their feelings and builds resiliency. Life is filled with ups and downs and this is the perfect way to learn this lesson.

Being a good sport builds teamwork, character, teaches respect, honor, discipline, kindness, inclusion, resilience, perseverance, honesty, and INTEGRITY!!! To be a good role model is to exemplify this in your daily life and pass it on to others, especially children. By example of course; if you have to tell someone you are a good or trustworthy person, there is a take a look at yourself!

If you know, or you are one of those people that turns on a greased dime when you don’t get what you want and start character attacks to make yourself feel better, we are talking about you!

A bad or poor sport is a person that is unnecessarily emotionally negative after being defeated in a competition of some sort, blaming everyone else for their loss or disappointments. It can also be one that overreacts when they don't get their own way. I describe them simply as a baby, crying when the outcome they wanted is not in their favor, someone who feels unnecessary entitled and could use some positive knowledge that life does not always give participation trophies, nor does the world revolve around them.

If you are wondering how kids learn this behavior, don’t look beyond your front door, it is probably the adults in their life, social media or television. It happens by watching adults’ reaction to life’s daily outcomes. Children learn by example, not so much as what you tell them to do, but by what they observe.

I recently attended a week-long national convention as a volunteer and representative for our Unite Against Bullying ME/Crown CARES program. This seven-day event started out great. There was much talk about being kind, respectful and positive. With 250 competitors, only one would make it in their respective group and win. On the final day ,fifteen would be chosen to continue on for the win, narrowed to six and then the final winner.

During the week, there were many people complimenting the organization of the presentation, events, sponsors, safety (because of Covid), etc. But as the week progressed and people starting earning awards for various competitions, what started as a time of celebration and sisterhood quickly made a turn for the worse from a few. Only a few, but enough people to sour the enjoyment of others and plant blame and doubt. The 5% of unhappy people turned to personal and professional attacks on whoever was in their way. Disheartening is an understatement, as most of these behaviors came from the adults, not the younger people participating.

Let me share some ideas on how you can keep a positive attitude and be a good sport, how to respond to people that are not respectful, and how to teach children to accept disappointments, losses and humbly win with gratitude.

Clearly if you are making an accusation that is out of anger and are intentionally displaying this negative behavior, you have a problem and may be a bully! The person you are attacking is your target and if you are watching it happen and doing nothing, you are the bystander. Don’t let someone else tell you how you feel or define you in any way. Only you know how you feel, their thoughts and comments are only speculation and anger. Someone insinuating how you feel or telling you what you should do is only a fool, the one with a problem, not you!

Part of growing up or being an adult is learning how to deal with adversity. How a child handles losing is related to how they are raised, how they observe or don’t observe behaviors in the adults in their life, and how they view competition, themselves and their peers. When too much emphasis is placed on winning, a child can have difficulty accepting defeat and life challenges in general.

Here are some signs to identifying Poor Sports.

1. Sulking: and Pouting: One sulks or storms off if things don’t go their way. They may make up stories to make them look like they are the victim of the situation, “she did this, they did that” and “that is why I didn’t…...”. They may stay upset or sulk the rest of the day, or even longer and even believe what they are saying is true. The longer the behavior lasts, the more problematic it is. If this happens, it is a great time to discuss feelings and behavior. If you don’t, you are at the first step to a spoiled child turning into a negative, entitled adult.

2. Non-winning attitude: As the old saying goes, “I’ll take my ball and go home”. This person will usually immediately leave when losing, taking their ball (or any other key objects) with them, usually stomping out, cursing, glaring at others, etc. The message here is “If I can’t win, then no one else can either or they don’t deserve it, I should have won but was wronged” and finally, “I want you to be as miserable as I am.” And they make sure you feel the misery before they exit!

3. Tantrums/negative behavior: They throw tantrums when faced with losing. Up to a certain age, it’s understandable for a toddler or young child to express disappointment in such ways; but if it goes on too long, see #1. Example, parents that lose perspective, get upset at ball games and yell at the coach and referees. We’ve all seen these people. Again, children learn from adults’ behavior.

4. Cheating: A person who loses will accuse the others involved of cheating or being less than fair. They may make excuses for their loss, claiming unfairness or favoritism. They will make an excuse to why someone else won, placing blame on another person that did them wrong.

5. Shaming, Intimidation, Anger: Another manifestation of poor losing is shaming. When a person believes that their worth, or that of their child, is determined by whether they win or lose, then losing means having less worth or value. Aggressive behavior, even outright verbal or physical violence, is exhibited by people who can’t deal with losing. A win-at-all-costs mentality drives one to extreme behavior. Make sure the child knows that this is unacceptable and teach them more constructive ways of dealing with failure. The shaming can be towards another child or adult, or a parent may even shame their own child.

No matter what tactic a person chooses to deal with losing, they need to understand how to deal with failure just as much as they need to understand how to deal with success, and understand consequences. If not, we are teaching our children to be entitled and lack empathy.

No one is perfect, and we all fail at times. Failing grows positive character. Learning from your mistakes is one of the foundations of maturity and allows us to coexist peacefully.

Create personal (and professional) guidelines for children to grow by. Setting these boundaries create a safe environment for youth and serves a protector and learning experience. Other than these rules and guidelines, there is nothing to protect the character of people doing good in the world.

Unfortunately, today’s society allows character assassination mostly by watching and doing nothing about a situation, the silent bystander. Just take a look at what is going on in the news and politics. Some jump ship and run as fast as they can. Do unto others, stand up for what is right, be a friend, lend a helping hand, as you may need one someday as well.

Here are a few steps that might help you when you are being a victim or target of personal or professional attack from an angry parent, poor sport or negative people in general.

1. Do not sink to their level or create more drama. Trust me, this is easier said than done. As I stated above, the first response is to retaliate and be angry, especially if their attacks are unwarranted, baseless and untrue. It’s hard not to respond immediately. But getting into arguments over something that is not true is always counterproductive and leads to escalation – not resolution. Be professional and maintain your composure. Trust me, they want you to fight back, give them validation or a place to release their anger. Joining them on the hamster wheel goes nowhere with no resolution, just blame, hurt feelings and pain. You will most likely lose if you choose to lash out in anger, or be reactive instead of proactive, which means we need to have boundaries or rules in place that protect you and your family, friends or organization. Their opinion of you is not who you are. Their opinion does not define you and ignore them but speak up.

2. Focus on your goal. Sometimes people use a personal attack to sidetrack you from the real issues they are upset about. Your response? Keep your goals and interests front and center. Poor sports are mad because they didn’t win-again: ignore them.

3. Take a break. Don’t underestimate the power of a cooling down or off. Take a break that’s at least an hour or so. It usually takes at least that amount of time for their adrenaline surge to dissipate. Of course, I prefer to take a day, week, or even longer or write it all down and throw it away without sending. One thing that has worked for me is my golden rule of drama in my programs. If something happens and you are being bullied or harrassed, go to the people in charge to help stop it immediately. If you don't, please don't come to us (after you lose) and complain. We will handle any problem at the time. But you must wait 7 days to complain about drama after the event, if you don't follow the rule of time of incident. This really helps, it helps the person know they can speak up to anyone in a kind way, they think of solutions and decide if it really is a problem, and they understand the rules which are made very clear in a parent meeting. Any negativity after the fact is acknowledged as someone not following protocol.

4. Consider going over their head. If a situation continues in your daily life, at work or school, some changes need to be made, especially those involving longstanding business- relationships, sports or organized competitions. Consider going over the attacker’s head and requesting help with a solution from a boss, coach, etc. In fact, I always tell my staff to come to me with your problem and possible solutions and outcomes. This way I can see what they think is fair and I can come up with a solution that they will understand and be happy with which includes following protocol, fairness and the ability to have a positive outcome. Letting a bullies off the hook only allows them the freedom to bully another. Ignore them and tell someone what is going on.

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