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What the Philadelphia Eagles Can Teach Your Kids About Sportsmanship


It is also just as important that if your team wins that celebrating is completely acceptable, but to also be a gracious winner.

Sportsmanship is defined as "conduct (such as fairness, respect for one's opponent, and graciousness in winning or losing) becoming to one participating in a sport." 

It also is a word thrown around a lot in athletics, especially youth sports.

As a Minneapolis resident whose home team competed for a spot to be in the Super Bowl, coincidentally held in our hometown this year, I heard the "sportsmanship" term mentioned a lot as many Minnesotans traveled to Philly as the Vikings played the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game.

There were warnings about Eagles fans' behavior, and even "experts" on the news advising Vikings fans how to navigate safely in Eagle territory.

There were sordid stories of aggressive, belligerent Philadelphia fans who threw items at opposing teams, punching horses in the face (yes, I said horses) and even requiring an in-stadium jail.  

The kids in Minnesota were just as invested in this game as the adults ... many schools stopped their studies midday to perform a "SKOL" (Vikings celebratory cheer) ceremony.  

Teenagers, kids, babies and even dogs were wearing Vikings jerseys.  

All eyes were on this big game, and kids were watching as footage was shown of Vikings fans walking into the Philadelphia stadium, bottles thrown at them, insults hurled and buses pounded on.  

I realize this wasn't every Eagles fan, and maybe even a small group, but for "MinnesotaNice" this was pretty shocking.

That same weekend, I was sitting in a gym, as I usually am, watching my sixth-grade daughter compete in basketball.

If you have never been to a competitive youth sports game, allow me to paint the scene: Parents yelling, coaches pacing, referees giving technicals, kids throwing elbows -- it happens.  

It made me think about the message that was being sent to these kids and how competitiveness in youth sports can often morph into poor sportsmanship from both adults and kids.

Despite all this, sportsmanship in theory is stressed in youth sports from "Friendship Game" trophies to shaking hands with a team even if it beat you by 20 points.

But are we creating a "do as we say, not as we do" environment if these same kids come home after their games and see adults behaving the opposite way at a professional football game?

Here are some reminders about the importance of sportsmanship -- whether we are talking about youth sports or the Super Bowl.


No matter who you are, or how good you are --no one wins all of the time. Teach your kids the simple lesson that either you WIN or you LEARN.

A loss can often be a trampoline to growth, development, maturity and an overall team improvement.


Stress to your child that the outcome of the game is temporary and changeable, but that their value is permanent and will only improve with effort.

In coaching terms, it is lowering the stakes not the standards. It is important to separate your child’s value as a human being from the outcome of the game.


Sure, it would be tempting to leave Eagles fans out in the Minnesota cold as they travel here for the Super Bowl, but instead talk to your kids about respect.  

When another team wins, accept defeat, acknowledge its abilities and move on. It is also just as important that if your team wins that celebrating is completely acceptable but to also be a gracious winner.


I won't try to tell this to the Vikings fans who painted their kitchen cabinets purple and gold, but it is a good lesson to remember.  

Sports are competitive, exciting, gut wrenching and intense -- but they also are for entertainment. Stay true to your character even when your team is losing, the refs make a bad call or another opposing fan provokes you.

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Sportsmanship Pennsylvania, Minnesota