Hard Lessons in Sportsmanship


I kicked my daughter’s ass today.  Not literally of course.  Even if I were ever to be so bold as to write a post about spanking her, I probably wouldn’t open with that line. No, today I kicked her ass at pop-a-shot basketball and just to be sure that she had learned her lesson, I kicked her ass at skee-ball.


nothing but rim


It wasn’t my first intention, not the purpose of our trip to the entertainment complex.  These games are usually a collaborative effort, our goal the accumulation of a few thousand tickets to trade in for a plastic spider ring or a super bouncy ball. Very rarely do we go head to head in games of skill, and when we do I usually let her win, or at least tie.  My goal for her has always been to make sure that she is putting in maximum effort and to encourage practice as a means of improvement.  As long as she is having fun and those two things are being done, winning  can remain a secondary objective for now.

I’m not sure that she would agree.  She’s always been hyper competitive, but it’s usually a cute thing, more of a motivation to herself to improve.  In anticipation of a birthday party held at a gymnastics center this morning, she spent the week crashing around the house practicing cartwheels.  The place we were at today was found while looking for somewhere less crowded to practice her roller skating in between parties.

Today that spirit that I love took an unexpected turn, a game of mini-golf turned ugly.  Those who have spent time with me out on the links know that I can be inclined to be generous with my mulligans and gimme putts. That sometimes my scoring can be “creative” and that the “foot wedge” is an important tool in my arsenal. They will also tell you that what I don’t do is talk a lot of trash.

Not that I can’t. When the time is right and I’m able to back up my words with performance I can sling trash talk with the best of them. There is just an unfortunate lack of  times when this is applicable.

Today my daughter talked a lot of trash. She mocked misses, danced around when her ball hit the bottom of the cup, and apparently was completely oblivious to the fact that had we a scorecard she would have been about thirty shots behind after nine holes. She was completely obnoxious and frankly, a very unpleasant playing partner.


lessons in sportsmanship
somehow believes her ball is closer


So I taught her a lesson in humility.  It’s probably not a technique that would be covered in a parenting manual, but one that seemed effective.  There was a line that any reasonable person would recognize and not long after crossing it I stopped.  The day ended with what I thought was a very productive conversation over pizza and root beer about sportsmanship, other people’s feelings, and the importance of not acting like an asshole.  I think that she got the message.

I’m not going to  gloat, but I’m calling this a parenting win.


lessons in sportsmanship
the face of a loser


46 thoughts on “Hard Lessons in Sportsmanship”

  1. Brilliant! I love this. Humility is the perfect word. As much as I try to build them up, they should always be aware that they are a small fish in a very big pond. It’s good for them and will also teach them to work harder to be better. Nothing that comes easy is worth having.

  2. Lol a key lesson there – both my husband and I are uber competitive so I imagine we’ve got some battles ahead of us with our little one! #kicksomeass #TriumphantTales

  3. Hahaha, my husband also uses every opportunity that him and the girls play at some sort of sport/computer/board game to teach them humility. I have to say I prefer letting them win. You don’t get the sulking then! #FridayFrolics

  4. Oh bless her, that face!! 🙂 Next time she will be so determined to beat you. Great little lesson for her 🙂 Thanks for linking up to #TriumphantTales, hope to see you again this next week.

  5. I do think sometimes kids need to be brought down a peg or two. Its life lessons and stops them getting too big for their boots. A parenting win for you and a lesson for your daughter!
    Thank you so much for linking up to #TriumphantTales. I hope to see you again tomorrow!

  6. Oh dear! I’ve had to do this, or rather the Hubby did, once or twice with our two. They do love to gloat and do NOT like to lose. We’ve tried our best to teach them about sportsmanship. Sounds like you’ve got the right approach. 🙂
    Thanks for linking to #pocolo

  7. A valuable lesson, no doubt. Took me ages to learn not to carry on like pork chop when playing sports, so hang in there, you may need to go back over this a few times! #thatfridaylinky

  8. Is it wrong that I laughed at the face of a loser?! I’m sorry, but that is a lesson more kids need to learn! I remember when my dad and mom did it to my brothers and I, we never forgot it when we started playing team sports…don’t be an asshole. #ThatFridayLinky

  9. Brilliant!! I assume you didn’t use the word asshole Ha! But such a good lesson for her. Especially if she is very competitive! Everyone likes a gracious winner. xx #thatfridaylinky

    1. so far I haven’t called her an asshole to her face. Hopefully that will continue, though I can’t make any promises

  10. I would have done exactly the same ! parenting is a tough job but someones gotta do it, I think you taught her a much needed valuable lesson. Thanks for linking up with #TuesdayTreasures .

  11. With you on this one mate I have the kids win every so often a reality check is a great idea on occasions I have destroyed them in a game because I can Oh the trantrums that follow. Life is tough and very competitive and they basically need to learn loved this post as usual your writing is top quality Jeremy oh what a great last photo Thanks for linking to the #THAT FRIDAY LINKY come back next week please

  12. I think you did the right thing, you don’t want her to be that obnoxious kid talking crap the whole time and equally so you don’t want her to be a sore loser! It’s so tough isn’t it?! Thanks so much for sharing with #StayClassyMama!

  13. Great article!
    Few things make me more frustrated than participation ribbons or awards when it comes to kids and sports or other competitions. Kids need to know that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose and that both are just fine. Kids need to know that sometimes they don’t deserve to win—that they aren’t the best and that their efforts weren’t as effort-y as someone else’s.
    Losing isn’t bad. In fact, losing is a great way to build character in a child.

    1. I’m not as against participation trophies for younger kids. My daughter is involved in soccer and softball and is still just learning the fundamentals at this point. I think something to reward her for trying her best is an appropriate way to help keep her interested until things start to get more competitive. There does come a time when they need to stop though.

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