Remember Summer Sportsmanship - U of I Extension

News Release

Remember Summer Sportsmanship

This article was originally published on July 16, 2017 and expired on September 10, 2017. It is provided here for archival purposes and may contain dated information.

Summer time is here, and each year 4-H members look forward to this time. There are many reasons for this, of course, but I think one of the biggest reasons for 4-H’ers is the annual county fair.

Times spent at the county fair are times of great fun and memories for youth (and sometimes even parents and volunteers). The county fair is an opportunity to reconnect and spend time with friends from across the county. It’s also a great time for family teamwork. And, most importantly, for youth to showcase the project work they’ve spent much time on. They’ve prepared the exhibit and learned about that particular project area to share with the judge and the community at large. It’s their time to share the knowledge and skills they’ve gained in a particular project area or areas. And, believe me, we have some very talented young people in 4-H!

Having said that though, I would like to remind everyone that winning isn’t everything when it comes to your 4-H exhibits. You have likely heard the old cliché “it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.” Yet, these days it seems harder and harder to believe this to be true. Youth are all too often pressured into thinking that winning is everything. There is nothing wrong with the desire to win as long as it does not come at the expense of good sportsmanship behavior. Unfortunately, 4-H’ers, parents, volunteers and spectators can lose perspective on this and forget the real reason for being involved in the 4-H program (i.e. gaining knowledge, development of life skills, public speaking, citizenship, family times, friends, and fun!)

Unfortunately, poor sportsmanship exhibited by 4-H’ers, parents, volunteers and spectators, can often ruin the entire experience for youth. It also fails to teach youth the appropriate behavior. And, it doesn’t teach youth how to cope with winning and losing. The reality is that over their lifetime youth will have upsets and they need to learn to deal with these upsets in a dignified manner. Keep in mind that it takes a lot of hard work and effort to be a good winner, as well as a good loser but that it’s important to learn both skills.

So, as we approach fair time, here are some tips for being a good sport and minding your sportsmanship Ps and Qs:

  • Remember to allow youth to participate in 4-H for their own enjoyment, not yours.
  • Be a good role model.
  • Show your child that hard work and effort can matter more than victory.
  • Avoid yelling at your child for making a mistake.
  • Do not publicly question the judgment or integrity of a judge, superintendent, other volunteers, or Extension staff.
  • Show respect to all involved.
  • Praise your child as well as their friends and other 4-H’ers just for participating, regardless of their ability. Applaud good exhibits or work done by all club members.
  • Be proud of your child regardless of the outcome.
  • Do not provide instruction during the show or judging experience.
  • Do not embarrass your child. People don’t always remember the final outcome  but, they always remember the parent/spectator/volunteer who made a fool out of himself or herself.

So this summer as youth are busy with baseball, softball, swimming, or exhibiting at the 4-H shows during the county fair, remember that in the grand scheme of life it’s really just a show. And, keep in mind, “ribbons and awards will fade, but the things young people learn last a lifetime.” (unknown author)

Lastly, remember, 4-H exhibits at the fair are designed to showcase the work of young people to others in the community. It provides young people with the opportunity to demonstrate skills and knowledge as well as to gain ideas for improvement. 4-H members are encouraged to try something more challenging each year and to practice good sportsmanship. Exhibiting is designed to be an enjoyable educational experience not just a competitive contest. Enjoy the fair experience! “Summer Fun & 4-H Go Hand in Hand!”

By: Deanna K. Roby

This article was adapted from articles written by Jessie Crews, U of I Extension Educator; Karyn Mendoza, former U of I Extension Educator; and Sheri Seibold, U of I Extension Specialist.


Source: Deanna Roby, Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development,

Pull date: September 10, 2017