Character Chats

Teamwork, Effort, and Sportsmanship

How does sportsmanship and effort affect teams?

Here at True Balance Karate, in Downers Grove, Illinois, we have a social emotional learning program called True Character.

And this month we’re talking about teamwork.

I’m Master H, chief instructor and owner here at the studio. I was a special education teacher and hold two master’s degrees in education, taking all of the knowledge that I learned in the classroom and applying it to the mat, so that we can best meet the needs of our youngest students and our oldest students. Our youngest is three. Our oldest is 83.


And this month we’re talking about teamwork. And today, specifically, we’re talking about how sportsmanship and effort our affect our teams. And sportsmanship is an interesting idea.

We get caught up on winning and bragging and being excited and being really, really happy about how our team is doing.

And as we’re showing a sportsman-like attitude, we need to remember that, if you’re winning, somebody else is not.

And part of that problem that comes into it is remembering to have that empathy for what the other side is doing.

Positivity in challenges

So, as we’re talking about sportsmanship with our students here in the class, we’re reminding them to offer good jobs. We’re reminding them to encourage each other.

We’ll give them what we call a black belt challenge, like a jump spinning, 360 crescent kick. And I know that a six year old is not going to be successful at that, but it reinforces the idea of effort.

And it reinforces the idea of another student saying, “Great job. Try again.”

Because when it comes down to it, that’s what we want to encourage, is that positive attitude, that sportsmen like idea.

And the idea that what really matters is the effort that you put forth. Are you trying your hardest? Are you doing your best? Are you learning from what’s going on?

And sometimes, teams can have all of the positive attitudes and all of the great sportsmanship and all of the good effort going in their favor, and they still lose the game. And that’s okay.

Rewarding the effort that they put forth, rewarding the good plays that occurred matters in that side of teamwork.

Poor teamwork

And then there’s some teams that have poor sportsmanship. There’s too many cooks in the kitchen. There’s too many bosses. There’s too many people that want to be in charge. And those teams don’t have a whole lot of effort. And then they start arguing and bickering, and probably won’t play as well, out on the field.

Black Belt Effort

And so, when we’re doing belt testing here at the studio, we are reinforcing the idea of putting forth your best effort. And it’s okay that you missed your break or you missed the sparring match, or you forgot a form. That’s okay.

Effort at home

When my kids were younger, one of the things that they would come home and share were how they’re doing in school.

And one of the things that I always asked them was how was their effort. If it was an A, great. If it was a B, great. If it was a C, fine. Great, no problem. I was more worried about their effort.

And I remember when my oldest came home, she was in seventh grade, and she said, “Mom, I think I’m failing math right now.” And I said, “Okay, what are you going to do about it? What can I do to help you? And what are you going to do about it? Who is your team at school that can help you?”

And so, she advocated for herself. She went in, she got extra help from the teacher. She stayed after school a couple of times. She redid a few assignments. She would ask me some questions. She utilized the team around her, and I needed to see that more than I needed to yell at her for the grade.

And at the end of the day, now that she’s almost out of high school, what she learned from that was more about going in for help, and that teachers aren’t scary, and that somebody’s willing to help her, as long as she asks the right question.

Working together through anything

So, as we continue this idea of teamwork, one of the things that we want to keep in mind is how can we positively reinforce the idea of sportsmanship, and how can we positively reinforce this idea of effort?

Because we all can’t be winners, and we all are going to make mistakes.

But the more we can praise the work put in, praise, the learning that was occurring, praise the sportsmanship that we see on the field, recognize when students are lifting each other up, the more our teams become stronger.

Thanks. And I’ll see you on the mat!

True Balance Karate was founded in 2012 by Master Sue and Paul Helsdon.

We offer kids karate lessons for pre-school children ages 3-6 and elementary age kids ages 7 and up. These lessons are designed to develop the critical building blocks kids need — specialized for their age group — for school excellence and later success in life.

Our adult martial arts training is a complete adult fitness and conditioning program for adults who want to lose weight, get (and stay) in shape, or learn self-defense in a supportive environment.

Instructors can answer questions or be contacted 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week at 630-663-2000. You can also contact us here.