Building strong citizens through sportsmanship

Being a good sport doesn’t always come easy nor is it always what one wants to do in the moment. This is an important lesson 4-H teaches.

Competition teaches youth to deal with rules, repercussions from not following those rules, disappointment and seeing the bigger picture where something may actually not really be unfair, although that is the feeling they are experiencing. Learning to deal with these situations will help youth to deal with situations in life with confidence and success when the stakes are much higher.

Being a good sport doesn’t always come easy, nor is it always what one wants to do in the moment. This is an important lesson Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Development teaches. Learning to lose or win gracefully, to view each circumstance as a learning opportunity and to cope with disappointment while continuing to maintain relationships within competition is an important life skill. When a person doesn’t win, they might be disappointed in themselves, and although they do not think poorly of the individual that won, they also aren’t thinking about congratulating them because of their own disappointment. In other cases where it seems like a situation isn’t fair or doesn’t turn out how one would like it to, it is even harder to be a good sport. Often in these situations a person will turn to blaming another, even when they know it isn’t their fault.

If there is a rule that was broken, even if it was because the participant didn’t know the rule or it wasn’t clear to them, the person who has to make sure those rules are followed are often blamed even though they didn’t cause anyone to not follow the rules. In tough situations, it is common to want to bend the rules or be lax on the rules, but then it just makes the rules less clear and creates truly unfair situations in the future. These are tough things for individuals to learn and even tougher when the person is disappointed or upset.

4-H has a lot of fun, excitement, education and, yes, even disappointment. Disappointment from losing, burning a food project that has been done perfect many times before, an unfollowed rule because they didn’t read all the rules set for that project area, an injured animal or, even worse, an animal that dies before the show. Many parents want to shelter their children from these “unfair” situations and disappointments. However, when someone really puts thought to these disappointments, they may see that these things are not that bad. During the time it is occurring it seems quite devastating, but really in the grand scheme of life it is just a bump in the road.

As mentioned in the beginning, these situations can teach youth to deal with disappointment, rules, repercussions from not following those rules or seeing the bigger picture where something may actually not really be unfair. The situations will give them life skills that will prove to be invaluable in their adult life.

Youth in 4-H learn how to deal with difficult situations in so many ways and become strong citizens in the process. They learn these things through winning, losing, achievements and disappointments. When given the tools and the chance, youth will deal with these situations with grace and poise. 4-H provides a safe, kind environment for youth to gain this knowledge and in the process build strong leadership skills. 4-H builds strong citizens by giving youth a chance to work through situations on their own with support and guidance instead of protection. 

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