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Teach Your Athletes to be Respectful Winners on the Field


Ultimately, by integrating the strategies above into the way you coach, your athletes will be equipped with the tools they need to be a respectful teammate, opponent, and leader – no matter the outcome of the game.

In youth sport, we often put too much focus on the concepts of winning or losing competitions. When that’s the primary focus of sport, we’re missing a valuable learning opportunity. As coaches, it’s time to start focusing on how our athletes act and react to wins and losses.

Wade Gilbert, PhD, a professor at California State University in Fresno and a Team USA Coaching Consultant, weighs in on practical ways you can teach your team to be more graceful post-game, whether they win or lose.


Coaches have the ability to influence athletes’ concepts of success and winning.

“Before the game, have the team come together and define what winning means. Take the scoreboard out of the equation: What does winning look like if there aren’t points?” asks Gilbert. “The team will come up with something creative, and it’s fun to revisit that after the game. Those conversations are much more positive than simply focusing on the scores. You should focus on how you play, not the outcome.”


Creating team rituals, whether you win or lose, is important. How players honor the game, their opponents, and each other is important,” says Gilbert. “At the end of the game, what does the team do? Develop a routine – come together, do the team chant, have a player of the game, thank the officials – create those rituals that happen win or lose so that athletes understand that it’s not about the result, it’s about how we play and act.”

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