How to Teach Your Child to Be a Good Teammate

Illustration of child playing soccer

Verywell / Madelyn Goodnight

If you or your children have ever played team sports, you know how beneficial they are to learning and development. Being part of a team teaches you responsibility, good sportsmanship, and to work together for a common goal.

However, being a good teammate doesn't always come naturally. It's important to foster good teammate behavior when your kids begin youth sports, as these qualities will transcend beyond just the game and apply to many aspects of their lives. Read on to learn more about how to teach your child to be a good teammate.

Benefits of Team Sports

According to Amy Morin, LCSW, psychotherapist and international bestselling author of "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," "13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don't Do," "13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don't Do," and "13 Things Strong Kids Do," team sports have a plethora of developmental benefits for kids. These include teaching motor skills, like hand-eye coordination or kicking a ball, social skills by way of interacting with peers, and communication skills necessary to practice teamwork.

In addition to the developmental benefits, playing organized sports also teaches kids how to be good leaders and followers, helps them learn how to deal with both winning and losing, and teaches them about hard work, dedication, and perseverance.

Stephen Sombrotto

Team sports teach kids important life lessons like how to deal with situations and outcomes that aren't ideal.

— Stephen Sombrotto

A child who loves sports will spend hours practicing and perfecting their technique in order to get better with each game. This level of devotedness and work ethic is a great life lesson that will help prepare kids for challenges they may face in adulthood.

Stephen Sombrotto, vice president of Police Athletic League (PAL) in Port Washington, NY, says team sports are an integral part of school, just as much as any other subject. "Team sports teach kids important life lessons like how to deal with situations and outcomes that aren't ideal," he adds.

What Makes a Good Teammate?

Being a good teammate is all about having good sportsmanship. This means supporting teammates when they are playing well, but also when they make a mistake, says Morin. "It's easy to cheer on your peers after scoring a goal. The challenge is showing support when your teammate misses a shot."

When things aren't going well in a game, a player's attitude and body language affect the other teammates, says Sombrotto. The way a player handles loss and failure also affects the way a coach looks at them. "Having a positive attitude, showing respect for your teammates and coach, as well as being humble, are all qualities that make a good teammate," Sombrotto says.

How to Foster Good Teammate Behavior in Your Kids

Although good sportsmanship is learned on the field and through team interactions, parents can also have a hand in promoting good teammate behavior.

Giving Praise

One way to encourage good teammate behavior is in how parents give praise. "[Parents should] praise their kids for being good sports and cheering on their teammates, as opposed to how many points they scored in the game," Morin says.

Asking questions like, "What's a time today that you really showed you're a good teammate?" and "Who is the best teammate on your team and why?" sparks conversations that get kids thinking about why being a good teammate is important and how to do it themselves.

Rather than trying to coach your child and tell them how to play, parents should focus on trying to instill a positive attitude in their kids, according to Sombrotto. "You can't control the outcome of the game, but you can control your attitude and how you react. If you bring positive energy to every game, you'll always come out on top," says Sombrotto.

Modeling Good Teammate Behavior

Sometimes the best way to get your kids to do something is to show them. Parents can model good teammate behavior during playtime. Whether it's playing a game of Monopoly or a friendly game of family basketball, modeling a positive outlook, support and respect for all, and grace with losing or winning, you can show kids how to embody being a good teammate in real-time.

Amy Morin, LCSW

It's easy to cheer on your peers after scoring a goal. The challenge is showing support when your teammate misses a shot.

— Amy Morin, LCSW

According to Dr. Rebecca Mannis, learning specialist and founder/owner of Ivy Prep, good teammate behavior can also occur off the field in more informal ways. "For children who may be struggling to be good teammates in organized sports, parents can practice how to be a good teammate in similar situations outside of the game, such as playing catch with a neighbor," says Dr. Mannis.

Watching Sports Games

Another way to teach your child to be a good teammate is by watching sports games together. Next time your favorite sports team is playing, tune in with your child and point out specific examples of good sportsmanship as you see it happening.

Maybe players are giving each other high-fives after scoring an important goal. Or perhaps one player puts his arm around another who just missed the game-winning show to console them. Being able to see these good teammate characteristics take form in an actual game can be quite helpful in cultivating these qualities in kids.

Thought Starters

You can ask self-reflection questions to get your child in the mindset of being a good teammate.

Rather than asking questions about their performance, get them thinking about their attitude, demeanor, and energy with the other players on their team.

For example, "How do you feel when you think positively even if your team is losing?" or "How can you support your teammates when they are down?" are both great questions to start with.

A Word From Verywell

Team sports have a ton of developmental and social benefits for kids, but being part of a team doesn't come easy all the time. It's important to foster good teammate behavior in your kids so they can be successful and start to build relationships. You can teach your child to be a good teammate in many ways including modeling being a good teammate, giving praise and watching sports games together.

1 Source
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  1. Farmer O, Cahill K, O'Brien W. Gaelic4Girls-The Effectiveness of a 10-Week Multicomponent Community Sports-Based Physical Activity Intervention for 8 to 12-Year-Old GirlsInt J Environ Res Public Health 17(18), 6928 (2020). doi:10.3390/ijerph17186928

By May Sofi
May Sofi Brennan is a bilingual speech-language pathologist specializing in early childhood. She has extensive experience working with children ages 0-5 and their families, with a focus on coaching caregivers on ways to encourage and promote language development. She is also a freelance writer whose work has appeared on Bustle and FabFitFun.