We live in a society that constantly perpetuates a win at all costs philosophy, so stressing the importance of good sportsmanship has never been more critical. Cheerleading of all sports should create an environment rooted in spirit and sportsmanship, but that unfortunately is not always the case. Parents and coaches must embrace the responsibility of leading by example and teaching cheerleaders how to gracefully win and lose.
There are many ways to communicate the message of good sportsmanship, but the most obvious and possibly the most important method is through demonstrating good sportsmanship. Cheerleaders tend to follow the tone set by the leaders in their lives (coaches, parents, captains). As a role model, it is important for parents to remain good sports no matter the situation. Neglecting this responsibility communicates that it is also okay for everyone else, cheerleaders included to do the same. Coaches can be proactive in demonstrating their sportsmanship by introducing themselves to the opposing team’s coaching staff and offering assistance with any issues that they may encounter. This sends the message to your team that even though they are opponents respecting them is still important. When it comes to competitive cheerleading coaches can take the lead by encouraging cheerleaders to cheer for other teams outside of their own program. When it is time for the awards ceremony cheerleaders should know what is expected of them. There is nothing worse than seeing a team not called for the first placed position storm off the mat.
Instilling good sportsmanship can also be fun. Challenge your team to create a good sportsmanship package for another cheer squad. This can be something as simple as home-baked goods. Any gesture in good faith is sure to be appreciated and unexpected. Incorporating cheers and chants at the beginning of the game or competition expressing good luck to the other team is also a good way to begin. The same can be said for cheers and chants at the end of the game expressing that a good game has been played. Also be proactive in highlighting examples of good sportsmanship both on your team and in professional sports. Rewarding good sportsmanship by your team members reaffirms to your athletes that this is truly an issue of importance. It is typically not difficult to find examples of bad sportsmanship in the news. Use these as teachable experiences. Don’t hide the situations from your cheerleaders, but rather explain the flaws within the behavior and how the situation could have been altered for the better.
Sports in general have the potential to teach a multitude of life lessons to participants. Remembering the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is a lesson easily learned through sports when under the right leadership. Take the challenge of leading by example and setting the bar high for good sportsmanship.