YMCA of Central Ohio

Raising Good Sports


Posted by: Ben Reed

Youth sports often start out fun and tend to grow competitive as children age. Sometimes the focus on athletic skill and physical achievement can overshadow the social-emotional learning taking place on the field or court. Youth development professionals can ensure kids of all ages are developing their team building skills at every level of play.

One male Y staff and three kids playing tug-of-war on a grassy field.

Here are four fun team building activities that encourage kids to be good sports:

Relay Races: This simple activity is a quick energizer and can be adapted to any sport. The concept is to have two teams move from point A to point B as fast as possible, and the first team to get all players across the line, wins. After the race, have a group conversation about how each team demonstrated good sportsmanship. Bonus tip: Get creative by incorporating different equipment, such as dribbling a soccer ball with football teams or bouncing a tennis ball with basketball teams.
Hot Potato: Two separate teams stand in a circle and toss or kick/pass a ball to one another. Every time a pass is completed, the team takes one step backwards. As the circle widens, the game becomes more challenging. After a couple of minutes, the biggest circle wins. Encourage players to stay honest and cheer for each other as the game gets more intense. 
Blanket Ball: Communication is key in this game! Two teams are given a blanket and each player holds the edges to spread it out in the form of a “blanket trampoline.” Throw a volleyball (or similar ball) into the middle of one of the blankets, and the team must flip the ball over a net for the opposing team to catch in their blanket and flip back. After the game, have a group conversation to share examples of how each player strengthened their team. Don’t have a net? Improvise and use poles or skipping rope as a makeshift bar that the ball must go over.
Human Knot: Problem solving together makes this silly game a challenge. Have your group stand in a circle with each person grabbing a hand across from them. When all hands are connected, the circle should resemble one big mess of hands that teams must work together to unravel without ever letting go of one another’s hands. Encourage players to talk to each other throughout the process and to cheer as each knot is untangled.