Posted: Jan 27, 2013 5:30 PM
 
Shock, anger and sadness are common reactions to Lance Armstrong's recent admission that he did, in fact, cheat his way to a record seven Tour de France titles with performance enhancing drugs. If we put our emotions aside for a moment, we can learn some valuable lessons about teaching good sportsmanship and raising a better generation of athletes.

To be perfectly honest, I've never been a huge fan of professional cycling. With hundreds of cyclists zooming past the cameras, I find the races hard to track. But when Lance Armstrong was at the top of his game, I caught the fever. The races that once sent me running for the remote control suddenly seemed exciting and inspiring.

When rumors that Armstrong used performance enhancing drugs to earn those titles began to surface, I was disappointed. While the use of banned substances certainly isn't a new concept in professional athletics, Armstrong somehow seemed above it. When he finally stopped lying and admitted to cheating, I just felt angry.

We put them on pedestals, throw multi-million dollar endorsements at them and encourage our children to view them as role models. We expect them to perform in super-human capacities whether on a football field or while riding a bike.

We live in a culture that glorifies professional athletes. We put them on pedestals, throw multi-million dollar endorsements at them and encourage our children to view them as role models. We expect them to perform in super-human capacities whether on a football field or while riding a bike. With that kind of pressure to live up to, why wouldn't they cheat?

As a country, and as parents, we've lost sight of the true spirit of competition. We've put money and winning at all costs above competing for sport. My anger in response to Armstrong's poor choices isn't just about him. My anger is toward professional athletics in general.

When I put those feelings aside, I realize that we can all work together to raise a new generation of athletes who know the importance of good sportsmanship and playing by the rules.

Watch your words

Children take their cues from their parents. If you criticize the abilities of other kids and hyper-focus on winning at all costs, your children will do the same. Focus on the positive when talking about the latest game or match, and remind your children that hard work leads to improvement.

Model good sportsmanship

It's not enough to say it — you have to model it for your children. I've witnessed parents yelling at coaches and children from the sidelines of tot soccer games. Choose to be positive. Cheer for other children and use compliments liberally.

Decrease the pressure

Performance in a little league game is not a good indicator of a future in major league baseball. Youth sports are intended to provide instruction, promote physical activity, build social relationships and, above all, be fun. Avoid pressuring your child to perform to a certain standard. When children experience stress and pressure on the playing field, they are more likely to make poor choices to get ahead.

Promote honest play

Understanding the rules of the sport, the team and the league is an important piece of playing a team sport. Keep an open line of communication with your child and review the rules regularly. Address cheating in a direct manner and accept the consequences for dishonest play.

Young children are no strangers to high parental expectations when it comes to team sports. Step back from the need to win and focus on healthy competition instead. Your children will thank you for it.

More on good sportsmanship

Helping siblings play nice
Solving common playtime battles
Keeping the peace during a playdate

Lance Armstrong photo supplied by WENN.com from OWN

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