Sportsmanship in 4-H

We often think we have good sportsmanship, but in the heat of competition, we sometimes don’t act with our best behavior. Here are some scenarios to practice difficult sportsmanship in difficult situations.

You can practice shooting a basket, proper equitation, fitting and grooming an animal, playing an instrument or giving a speech, but sportsmanship is not something you can simply do over and over again until you get it right. Sportsmanship is very difficult to practice until you are in a competition, with all of the stress, judging and potential high stakes. Issues of sportsmanship are unique to each particular situation.

Michigan State University Extension suggests these role-playing exercises that you can rehearse at home or in your 4-H club. By “trying out” these scenarios, young people (and adults) can be better prepared for those situations when similar things happen in the show-ring or another competition. Although each situation is unique, you can prepare yourself mentally for how you can deal with unsportsmanlike or improper conduct. There are no right or wrong answers, but the discussion is valuable to have outside the competition.

  1. You overhear another person saying that “they know the judge, which is the only reason they did good in the class.” How do you respond?
  2. You hear a rumor about someone drugging their animal. What do you do?
  3. You overhear someone making a racist comment in the barns. How do you respond?
  4. You know someone hired a professional groomer/trainer. How do you respond?
  5. You overhear some 4-H youth planning vandalism. What do you do?
  6. You see people picking on a person with a disability. How do you respond?
  7. You see a 4-H member extremely upset after losing a class. How do you respond?
  8. You see a 4-H parent screaming at a 4-H member after a competition based on their performance. What do you do?
  9. You hear a 4-H member saying to another member, “I hope your horse gets hit by a car.” How do you respond? Would you respond differently if it was an adult saying it?
  10. You see a 4-H member abusing their animal. What do you do?
  11. Imagine you are a superintendent or officer of an association. Some people complain all the time. Some people rarely complain. Do you treat their complaints differently? Do you prefer people to come to you directly with a complaint or go to a governing body? How do you prefer to be approached? How do you prefer to approach people?
  12. A 4-H member wins a lot of classes and appears arrogant and condescending to other 4-H members. How do you respond? Would it matter if their parent or club leader witnessed it or not?
  13. You overhear another person saying, “They only win because their parents bought an expensive animal.” How do you respond?
  14. You feel a judge is treating 4-H members poorly during a class. How do you respond?
  15. You are the 4-H staff member in your county. You are told that the club/committee officers are treating people rudely and unfairly. How do you respond?
  16. You notice a 4-H member crying after a class. When you ask the club member why, she says that another 4-H’er said nasty things to her after the class. How do you respond?
  17. You are a 4-H club member. You win a class, even though you made a mistake, because the judge did not notice it. Another club member, who usually wins, leaves the ring visibly upset, because she did not win. How do you respond?
  18. You are a committee officer. You have been receiving complaints about an aggressive show parent. How do you deal with the situation?
  19. You are the 4-H staff person in your county. What reasons constitute removing a volunteer from the 4-H program? What reasons constitute removing a 4-H club member from the 4-H program?
  20. You are a 4-H parent/guardian. You have brought up a complaint to your 4-H leader that has not been addressed. What do you do?
  21. You suspect that the 4-H member is not doing the work for their animal or project (a relative is doing feeding, grooming, etc). How do you respond?

Hopefully you will take a chance to try these out and discuss them with your clubs and families before the poor behavior occurs. Let this be a chance for both club members and adults to build their positive sportsmanship.

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