As a coach right now, it can be challenging to think about anything other than dealing with severely restricted practices and competitions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Without a normal sports environment, it might also be hard to see how athletes can learn and practice the values learned through sport, including sportsmanship.
However, there are a few ways you can help your team learn and grow without a scoreboard or a stadium. Here are a few easy ways to focus on sportsmanship despite the pandemic.
Find a New Gesture
The handshake or post-game high fives between teams are likely not going to come back anytime soon, if at all. So, your team has a new challenge: Figure out a team-specific way of acknowledging each other and the opposing team. Consider learning to say ‘good game’ using sign language, or even coming up with a quick team dance that your players can easily do instead of a high-five. Let your team come up with their own gestures—even deciding on how to say ‘good game’ to another team can emphasize the importance of good sportsmanship and help athletes think about what sportsmanship means in practice.
Figure Out a Creative Way to Encourage and Compliment Teammates
Typically, one of the tenants of sportsmanship is the ability to compliment and encourage one’s teammates, but that may be harder to do when practices are remote and meetings are virtual. Consider putting a pen pal-style program in place where your athletes have to write letters or emails to each other with compliments and encouragements. If that’s too complicated, simply make sure that you’re allowing time in virtual practices to call out positive things about different players and set a goal of having the day’s team leader say at least five encouraging things throughout a virtual practice.