Character Education in Children’s Sport
“When considering the stature of an athlete, or for that matter any person, I set great store on certain qualities which I
believe are essential in addition to skill. They are that that person conducts his or her life with integrity, courage, and
perhaps most of all with modesty. These virtues are totally compatible with pride, ambition and competitiveness.”
Sir Donald Bradman
What are the aims of children’s sport? Why are there sports programs in schools? Why are we
investing so much capital in fields and pools, and gyms? What goals are we setting for the players,
and for coaches and managers, and for the parents on the sidelines?
Surely young people’s sport is one feature of sound health education. We all know the alarming
statistics about increasing obesity in children. Sport also provides a terrific opportunity for parents
to spend time with their sons and daughters. But possibly greatest benefit of sport lies in its
potential for character development.
Adults need to remind themselves at times that winning is a very welcome by-product but not the
ultimate aim of sport. Children’s sport is about growing in character first of all. Sport has such
potential for building character, for inculcating good habits, because sport is so enjoyable and
therefore the experience is more vivid. The very routines of sport lend themselves to the repeated
experiences upon which good habits and virtues are built.
Suggestions for players, coaches and managers
“Having lost our agility, we delight in their sports and merrymaking, because
we love to think of our former selves. We gladly institute contests for those who
are able to awaken in us the memory of our youth.”
Establish high expectations, a team culture, at the start of the
! We keep to our team commitments right through the
! We are punctual to trainings and team preparations
before matches. We train with commitment.
! We keep ourselves fully informed of match details…
unless the players are very young it is their
responsibility not their parents’, nor the manager’s
! We respect the authority of the referee. He can make
mistakes… that is human.
! We never cheat. We never look for advantage by
deception. We never resort to unfair tactics.
! We have the self discipline to keep to our game plan.
! We strive to play with courage.
! We are tolerant of players who make mistakes. We don’t make them feel bad or remind
them of it.
! We think before we act.
! We take turns and we share… whether we are more able players or less able.
! We are open minded and we listen to advice.
! If we have leadership positions we lead by word and example.
! We never complain. We keep our language under control no matter what.
! We never talk badly of anyone, referee, team mate or opposition player.
! We congratulate good play and encourage each other equally.
! We call each other by first names or nicknames, not surnames.
! We recognise that it is more important to do one’s best being than to shine.
! We present ourselves well on field.
! We do our very best to the final whistle. We never throw in the towel.
“Laziness is the habit of resting before fatigue sets in.” Jack Gibson
Establish team routines that promote order and respect for others:
! Allocate various jobs and responsibilities to players at game and at training.
! Sincerely congratulate opposition at end of every game.
! Players never let down the team, at games or at training, by lateness or non attendance
unless in the most exceptional circumstances.
! Players clean up their area after a game.
“In competing with boys his own age, he should neither be allowed to give up nor to lose his temper.” Seneca
Just as there are expectations of the players, the adults too need to have high expectations of
themselves. Adults involved in children’s sport need to be aware of the absolute importance of the
example of coach and manager…these are privileged positions that will lead children to imitate
the behaviour they see:
! Communicate always that respect for others, charity, is the most essential virtue. This
must never be compromised.
! Model self control at all times.
! Model respect. Correct mistakes calmly. Never berate. Never belittle in public. Make
all criticism constructive. Look forward not back.
! Model professionalism. Be well prepared and punctual.
! Recognise effort, teamwork and generosity.
! Teach personal goal setting for each player.
! Recognise that the bar cannot be at the same height for every player or personality. Be
tolerant of differing abilities: a player does not deserve more or less respect because he
or she is a good player or a poor player.
“Have the courage to demand greatness from your kids.” Fr Chris Riley
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