What About Sportsmanship?

            We hear about it at every level of sports.  Too often, we see professional athletes demonstrating a complete lack of it.  Even parents in the stands and bleachers are sometimes guilty of forgetting it.  So what is “it?”
            I’m talking about sportsmanship…you know, the quality demonstrated by athletes and coaches who respect each other and the game.  Wikipedia defines sportsmanship as “an aspiration or ethos that a sport or activity will be enjoyed for its own sake.”
            Most adults have preached about sportsmanship at some point in their life, if not to their own kids…to a team or neighborhood group.  We normally associate good sportsmanship with fair play, ethical behavior and respect for one another.  Good sports set the example and live by the rules, even when they disagree or think something is unfair.  They conduct themselves with an air of dignity.
            Conversely, poor sports are often seen as immature babies who complain about every detail when they’re not winning.  They insist on blaming everything and everyone else for their own misfortune.  They may subscribe to “winning at all cost” as a way of playing the game, without respect to rules or decency.  Poor sports ruin the game for everyone!
            So what can you do to help influence those around you to be good sports?

            First and foremost, LEAD BY EXAMPLE!  Know the rules and understand the sport you’re playing.  Make every effort to play within the rules and respect the game and your opponents.  Play hard and challenge the opponent at every turn.  Even in defeat, most athletes appreciate a great performance.  Being a good sport doesn’t imply you must let your opponent off the hook.  It does, however, mean you must win “fair and square.”
            Second, work hard at maintaining an even-tempered, fair disposition.  You’ll be amazed at how much a friendly, positive attitude goes a long way.  Teammates and opponents alike appreciate someone who helps makes the game fun.  Self-control is the key component of a fair disposition.  Losing your temper will only make matters worse, since you run the risk of receiving a penalty, foul or even an ejection.
            Third is the intangible quality of demonstrating good character.  An athlete of good character places the team above him or herself.  They’re not interested in records, fanfare or individual recognition.  In fact, athletes of good character are generally good sports because it makes the most sense as the “right thing to do.”  An athlete of good character is epitomized by someone who helps their opponent off the ground or willingly shakes hands after the game.  Good sportsmanship and good character go hand-in-hand.
            Knowing and exhibiting these attitudes is often harder than it sounds.  We are, after all, simply human.  Each of us has a different capacity or tolerance for “stressors” that might cause a loss of good sportsmanship.  Working hard to avoid these stressors and planning ahead (to prevent becoming overwhelmed) are two ways to help yourself.  Once good sportsmanship becomes a habit, it’s fairly easy to maintain.  So work hard to develop the habit of good sportsmanship and see if it doesn’t help everyone around you do the same!



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