By Cass Aitken (November, 2012)
Sportsmanship is both a character trait and a skill. According to an article in Living Montessori Now, learning to
play competitive sports with grace and sportsmanship requires practice. Montessori principles and techniques can
be used to help teach and reinforce sportsmanship. When adults demonstrate sportsmanship, children learn to be
gracious while winning or losing.
There are many “built in” lessons to learn and practice while playing sports and games. Here are some lessons
the article listed to emphasize while playing:
- Be modest. Don’t boast about how great you are. Let your opponent discover that for herself.
- Be prepared. Have all equipment and clothing you will need.
- Be on time.
- Be a good sport. Accept a referee’s call even if you think it’s wrong.
- Stay in control of your emotions.
- Support your partner or teammates. Show compassion if someone makes a mistake.
- Encourage teammates and opponents. Smile and shake your opponent’s hand at the end of a game.
- Say congratulations.
- Leave the area where you played in as good or better condition than when you found it.
All three of my daughters play competitive sports. It is a lifestyle choice that I enjoy immensely. I love
watching them play sports and it is a great way for them to get exercise. I am also blessed that all of their coaches also
emphasize healthy lifestyle choices. If feel that I have given each of the girls a chance to find the sport that they are
truly passionate about. As a parent, my requirement was to put my own feelings and ideas aside and to do my
homework about what options were available for them. We have tried lots of sports. It has been a fun and educational
journey. Morgan and Kendra, the older two girls, have both found sports that they are really passionate about. Reese
is still searching. What I find interesting is that Morgan and Kendra both play sports that I had no idea about when I
was a child.
Now you are probably wondering how all this fits in with Montessori education, especially since one of the
things many parents worry about is the absence of a formal physical education class in the elementary program. I have
been asked many times how I feel about this and my answer is always the same: it is of no concern to me. One of the
major reasons is because there is no homework in Montessori schools. Montessori children have such rich and full
school days that when they are done, they are actually done! This frees up our evenings for lots of extracurricular
activity exploration. Kendra in particular has taken a huge leap in her gymnastics career. She is now is the gym 19-20
hours each week. It is so nice to know that homework is not an obstacle for her on this path. She is able to do this and
still get the finest education available. This balance is teaching her priceless life lessons.
It is also great to see how many of the principles and lessons they are learning in the classroom are being
brought to life in the real world—from being responsible for getting their own bags and equipment ready, to the
compassion and caring for the feelings of their teammates and opponents. Kendra was the “talk” of the gym at the last
competition when she graciously gave her reward for winning a handstand contest to her teammate because she had
won two and her friend didn’t win any. She didn’t want her friend to go home empty handed. This was a huge step for
Kendra considering a year ago she would have been upset that she didn’t win all four of the handstand contests. Like
the article said, the more a child can practice sportsmanship and etiquette the better they will become!