If I Were a Parent: Teaching kids to be good sports

Original article can be found HERE


“That teams stinks.” “Those refs are trash.”

“I wish I never signed up for this.”    Those were just some of the comments we got when we asked a group of elementary and middle school students to demonstrate bad sportsmanship. If you’ve been around kids in an athletic setting, you no doubt have heard comments like those — and plenty worse — from bad sports.   Losing is not easy for many kids, and being a graceful winner can in some ways be even harder, so the question becomes: what can parents do to teach their children good sportsmanship?

Rule No. 1 seems simple enough but is too often overlooked by helicopter parents who are living vicariously through their children. Parents should model the behavior they want to see in their kids, said John O’Sullivan, author of “Changing the Game: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes, and Giving Youth Sports Back to our Kids.”

“Kids are not very good at listening, but they are fantastic at imitating,” said O’Sullivan, founder of the Changing the Game Project, which says it seeks to “put the ‘play’ back in ‘play ball.’ “

“And so if you want your kids to display good sportsmanship, you should. If you don’t want your kids to yell at referees, you shouldn’t yell at referees.”

O’Sullivan, a former college and professional soccer player, said that as he was coaching his 11-year-old daughter’s soccer team recently, the opposing coach actually yelled to his players to try to hurt one of the girls O’Sullivan was coaching.

“I turned to him and said, ‘Are you serious, man? You’re telling an 11-year-old girl to try to hurt another 11-year-old girl? What is wrong with you?’ “

When we talked with kids themselves — most of them students at Lincoln Elementary School in Caldwell, New Jersey — as part of our “If I Were a Parent” video series, we got an earful about how parents are sometimes the worst sports of all.

“Sometimes, there’s a parent that every single play, even when the other team’s up by 30, it’s like, ‘why did you do that?’ from the stands, and they’re not even the coaches,” said Lance Jenkins, who began middle school in September.

Asked what impact parents who don’t display good sportsmanship could have on their kids, Toniann Garruto, who is in the fifth grade, said the kids won’t be good sports either, “because they’ll say, ‘Oh, my parents aren’t good sports, so why do I have to be one?’ “

It’s tough to know whether sportsmanship on the part of kids and parents has gotten worse from decades ago, but it’s certainly gotten more public, O’Sullivan said. “The bad behavior is more public, so every fight, every skirmish, every ‘soccer moms gone crazy’ is posted online … so it certainly seems like it’s gotten worse.”

Add the trash-talking that is common in professional sports, and you have plenty of examples for kids today of how not to be.

“If you consider trash-talking your opponents poor sportsmanship — I do — then they’re looking at their role models in sports doing it, and so they’re feeling like, ‘Well, they’re doing it, so I should do it, right?’ ” O’Sullivan said. “It’s up to parents and coaches to go out of their way to really address it. ‘That’s not what we do here. … I don’t care what the other team’s doing. That’s not what we do here.’ “

Casey Wescott, who is in the sixth grade, said that if he were a parent, he would try to focus on role models who are displaying good sportsmanship and show those examples to his child. “You show him or her a video of that player being a good sport and (say), ‘Don’t you want to be like, let’s say, Stephen Curry? Don’t you want to be like him?’ ” Wescott said of the star player for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors.

Grace Szostak, who is now in middle school, said that if she were a parent, she might read her kids some books with morals. “A lot of children like to take after their favorite characters,” she said, adding that she would show them television shows or YouTube videos with good morals, too.

One way to help a child learn how to lose and win is to keep games and competitions in perspective, said O’Sullivan, who has coached at every level from children to college. Chances are that the score of any game your child plays this fall won’t be remembered years from now, he said. “When you go and ask athletes for scores from games … they might remember a couple, but these early youth teams, in-town baseball games, they’re not going to remember that, yet parents are starting fights and going to prison over a bad call by an umpire, and that’s just insane.”

To help your child cope with losing, don’t get caught up in the moment, he said.

And as for teaching your child how to win and win gracefully, remind them how it felt when they were on the losing side. “The biggest thing that I always say to my team when you’re winning by a lot is, ‘you know what, you’ve been on the other side of it where you’ve lost by a lot. Do you remember how that felt? So don’t do anything that’s going to make your opponent feel any worse right now,’ ” O’Sullivan said.

We, parents and children, tend to get all riled up and unsportsmanlike when we become focused on the outcome, he said. When we’re winning and the umpire makes a questionable call, we might be fine with it, but when we’re down 1-0 and the umpire makes the same call, we freak out. Instead of being outcome-focused, we should be process-focused with our kids, encouraging them to move on from every play and every game, O’Sullivan said.

“Oftentimes, our first question to our kids after a game is ‘Did you win?’ Well, that puts all the focus on the outcome. Not ‘Did you enjoy yourself? Did you learn a lot? Was it a good game?’ Things like that, so change your first question.”

The Hidden Value of Camp

This post was found on Maine Summer Camp’s Blog here 

 The Hidden Value of Camp

Your kids want to go to camp for a variety of reasons: to swim, boat, craft, play games, sleep in a bunk, make up stories, sing songs, eat s’mores, and stay up late. Who among us wouldn’t want to spend many warm weeks of summer having fun with our friends? And while parents endorse all those endeavors, fondly recalling sing-a-longs around campfires, secret languages made up in the dark, and days on end spent in wet bathing suits, the real reason we send our kids to camp? It’s the independence.

We have no choice but to be protective these days as parents. The dangers are all too real. Sending our kids to camp lets us give them the freedom we remember from our youth. Freedom to play and be adventurous, to explore and discover nature and ourselves, away from the eyes of adults. Camp life is an alternate reality that is controlled yet wild. We can trust that our kids are safe, being watched over by counselors and staff, but with space to get immersed in the outdoors, to form their own tribes, to go a little native in the deep woods of Maine.

The kids know that camp is a special place. That it’s kind of a magical world that exists apart from and outside the one we inhabit the other ten months of the year. Campers are aware that it’s an escape from the pressures of the school year. What they may not realize is that they are acquiring skills, through play and everyday activities that help them grow and develop, independent of parental guidance.

You are giving your kids the incredible gift of self-discovery and the confidence gained through succeeding at tasks, whether a ropes course or simply getting up, dressed, and ready for the day all by themselves. The secret of camp is daily incremental growth intertwined with self-assurance. At the end of their weeks away you will be so impressed by your small person, how proud they are, how strong they have become.

It’s a sort of paradox, and a wonderful one. That a summer away at camp in Maine can change your child in these two distinct ways. First, that they happily unplug and commit to play and the quiet study of the world around them you thought had been lost in the unblinking eye of technology. And two, that they have transformed into a more capable, competent human being. More childish wonder and more independence, all at once. And it happened without them even knowing it.

Camp teaches kids something every single moment of every day, even when we all are at play.



There’s a saying in the camp world “10for2”. What it means is, we work 10 months out of the year for these 2 months of Summer Camp. There is so much preparation that goes into camp from visiting new & current camp families all over the country, hiring staff, programming and much more that I don’t want to bore you with. Although I enjoy all parts of this job, nothing compares to when the campers get off the bus and camp officially begins. I remember my own camp experiences like it was yesterday and my #1 priority is to make sure all of the campers at Bridgton Sports Camp have that same experience and walk away with friendships and memories that will last a lifetime.

Personally, a highlight for me every summer is the opening & closing campfires. The contrast between these two events will always amaze me. The opening fire, taking place within the first few nights of camp is very short because campers & staff don’t have the comfort level to talk/sing in front of people they have just met. Following three weeks of sports, inter-camp, trips, meals, & memories I can’t explain a final campfire to do it justice. A family had to pick their son up a day early this year and were able to experience this moment and were blown away by it. Every-one of our campers & staff stand up and talks about the goals they accomplished at BSC (Bridgton Sports Camp) and what camp has meant to them. Some of these campers were very shy at that opening campfire, some were homesick, a few are from other parts of the world and know little English, but EVERYONE gets up to speak. EVERYONE is comfortable and EVERYONE sings our adopted camp song, “Wagon-Wheel”, while I watch our senior campers arm in arm with tears in their eyes, realizing their camper experience at BSC is coming to an end.

We have created a strong community/family here at BSC and that is what I’m most proud of. I couldn’t/wouldn’t want to do this alone and realize how lucky I am to work with an admin team and staff that I consider family. These professionals care as much as I do about the success of BSC and work very hard to make sure all of our campers are safe & happy.

BSC 2015 was a huge success! Enjoy the rest of your summer and we have already started planning for 2016.

See you next summer at camp!









The boys had an extra hour to sleep this morning before the start of day two of color war. The skies were blue with a nice breeze to begin today’s competitions.They dressed and had war paint appropriate to their team.
There was a rotation of handball, soccer, and basketball. Each division played against each other. Scores were tight. Points are not only given to the winners of an event, but good sportsmanship is a key factor too.
I enjoyed watching the boys play sports that were not their major, and surprised at how athletic they are.
The last event today was a Sea Dogs Trivia contest.
Dinner was a cookout, and evening activity is a little down time or karaoke in the Wolverine Den.


The day has finally arrived. Color war broke this morning. Rumor was going around camp that there might not be one this year. It usually breaks before this. We just wanted to keep the guys on their toes. The two teams are the Warriors and Black Hawks.
The morning was all majors for points. For example Hockey had skills competition. They had 3 stations: shooting accuracy, passing, and a relay race. The period ended with a shoot out competition.
The afternoon was flag football, cook off and trivial pursuit. The different age groups rotated between the three activities.
This evening we are having the finals in BSL . Winners get their names on a huge trophy and a pizza party.


Morning on the fields. This morning soccer minors had a great game going. For the major period they had some really creative and fun drills. One of which was KING OF THE RING.

Baseball majors were divided and in the out field. Coach was hitting and they had to make the play at first.

On the ice courtesy of Coach Warde:
-partner passing- change direction and partner 3 times
-USA 2v2 passing
– Amarillo 2 shot warm up
— Gap 1v1
— Headman 2v1
— 3v3 transition game
— Finnish 1v0 station 1
— Seagull 1v0 station 2
— 3v0 center drive with cross and drop- station 3
— 1v1 with ringette- station 4

I watched some pretty intense weight training and fitness. This has become an extremely popular minor. The coach has even started a camper and separate competition for counselors called IRON MAN. Coach has been posting results and times on a chart in the dinning hall.
Arts and crafts has been a popular hang out. If campers don’t feel like tie dying they just sit and chill.
Semi finals in the BSC league are going on. CIT’s have a well deserved night off.


It’s hard to believe we are in our final week. Majors were in full swing this morning.
Baseball was split into catching and the batting cages.
Soccer majors were working hard as usual. I caught them in the beginning of the period while they were still looking fresh for a group shot.
Lax majors paired up and went one on one to shoot on goal.
Coach Warde just sent me a text:
–Underhandle in confined area- top hand, bottom hand, both hands
–1-5 passing – normal, cross and drop, head man
— 4 line shooting-quick feet, no stick handle
— 1v0 Russian flow series-4 options
— 3v3 3 nets 2 pass
Thank you Coach!!!

Plenty of worms were taken from the frig. today. I heard they are catching some nice size bass.
Campers were happy to be tubing and getting some great rides.
At line up this evening there were shout outs from counselors and campers. It’s always great to hear campers applauding each other for their accomplishments.
Tonights evening activity is BSL leagues.


Today was lazy man’s morning. Always a favorite day after a hard week of majors. Campers got home late from the Sea Dogs game and I heard the fireworks were even better then the 4th of July.

This morning was free play and this afternoon we had BSL leagues. Campers were divided into six teams. The Kentucky Wildcats, Farmington Beavers, Stanford Trees, Oregon Ducks, BMS Mountain Goats and the Crimson. They played blitzball slip and slide, handball and cricket. BSL leagues have been going on since the beginning of camp. We are getting close to the semi finals.
Phone calls are going on as I write……. Sure you are hearing all the camp news.


Great day at BSC. Clear skies for the SeaDogs game in Portland tonight. The fire works should be awesome.

This morning 16 and under went out of camp for a baseball tournament. At the last minute the other camp changed the game to softball. Close game and we gave it our best. We’ll try for a rematch but, it has to be hardball!!

The 12 and under boys hosted a basketball game here. The game was close and went right down to the wire. We played hard on offense and defense and won by 3.

It’s hard to believe we are starting our final week at camp. This coming week will be jammed packed and at some secret moment color war will break. No one knows how or when.