Sport on the box
When it comes to sport on TV, they will happily watch pretty much anything. Personally I draw the line at beach volleyball. All those ladies in skimpy shorts and tops throwing themselves around makes me feel very insecure. Not so for my husband. He likes to record the games, play them back and frequently pauses them to catch "the best bits" whilst pretending that he's checking "their technique". Nice try.
Beach volleyball and skimpy outfits aside, I'm delighted my boys love their sport. With the lure of technology stopping children even venturing outside these days, having a passion for sport can be a very good thing.
But how do you teach children sportsmanship, which is such a vital part of playing sport? I think we are all responsible for that - parents, teachers, coaches. And sporting legends. As people that children look up to, sports men and women have a responsibility to exhibit the best behaviour in their sport.
There have been a number of interesting things happen recently which made me think about sportsmanship and lessons we can learn from it.
Learning to lose
Sportsmanship can be simply defined as good behaviour exhibited when someone is playing a sport or involved in a sport. And one aspect of good sportsmanship is knowing how to behave when you lose.
My son is in his final year at prep school. He has set himself a number of challenges for this year, one of which includes playing in the top team for all of the sports matches at the school.
Unfortunately he wasn't selected to play for the 1st team for football. To be fair to him, he's a goalkeeper so that narrows the field (pardon the pun). He was pipped to the post (sorry - couldn't resist) by a mate of his. He was pretty devastated. We talked to him about it, and explained that sometimes in life you don't win or achieve every goal you set yourself. But the key is to pick yourself up and try again. And more importantly, make sure you are magnanimous in defeat.
It took a while, but he did end up mumbling well done to his friend and within a few days he was cheering him on from the side-lines. I was immensely proud of him.
The winner doesn't take it all
And then a few days ago a rugby match at my son's school was cancelled. The opposing team pulled out before the match because they said they couldn't get enough players together to make up a team, even though they have more children in the year than we do. I know this school well, and I know that what they really meant was "we can't get enough excellent players together to guarantee that we will beat you, so rather than losing, we are going to pull out." What sort of message are the teachers of that school giving the kids? And whatever happened to the motto "It's not the winning, it's the taking part that counts"?
Losing in life is something we all have to deal with. We don't like it, but it happens. And we have to be able to equip our children to deal with it.
He ain't heavy, he's my brother
Last year, we all sat as a family and watched the footage of Alistair Brownlee, who gave up the chance to win the final World Triathlon Series race because he stopped to carry his brother Jonny (and closest rival in the race) over the line in front of him. I turned to my boys and said "Now that's true sportsmanship." We all nodded and then my youngest turned to his elder brother and said "Don't get any ideas. I'm never doing that for you."
I guess I've got a bit of a way to go to teach my youngest the importance of sportsmanship.
Amanda Coxen, Working Mum and Tinies Director