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WHY WE PLAY THE GAME: SPORTSMANSHIP

By Jared Baldwin

The Associated Press had a short article this week that caught my eye.

“U.S. Open men’s doubles champions Bob and Mike Bryan and 2011 women’s champion Sam Stosur are the first recipients of the Grand Slam tennis tournament’s sportsmanship award…The USTA sportsmanship award comes with a $5,000 donation to the charity of the winner’s choice.”

I was amazed that the US Tennis Association values sportsmanship so highly that it gives a trophy and other honors to those whom it deems worthy of the “sportsmanship award” title.

In the athletic world there are two kinds of people, good sports and poor sports. As soon as you hear the terms you probably instantly have people in mind. The good sports are the ones who are the first to help out an opposing team member after a good tackle. The poor sports are the ones who step on them.

The good ones admit their infractions, while the poor ones throw tantrums. The good sport will be gracious in both victory and defeat, but the poor sports gloat or pout, depending on the outcome of the game. You see, even if you don’t have a working definition of sportsmanship, almost everyone recognizes it when they see it.

Integrity

Sportsmanship also involves a level of honesty. A good sport is honest with the authorities and the rules of the game. The officials cannot be with the athletes, watching every touch of the ball and every foot placement. They rely somewhat on the honor of the players to regulate themselves, stay in bounds, play fair and not try to break the rules and evade getting caught.

Athletes that cheat to get ahead, even in friendly games, defeat the nature of the game. These cheaters kill the positive aspects of their sport by taking shortcuts to promote their own agenda. Blood doping and bribery are the most extreme shortcuts, but kicking your ball out of the tall grass and not taking a stroke, or cutting the corner in a cross country meet are still examples of poor sportsmanship. Good sports have integrity and honor the game.

Respect

That honor should also extend to the opposing team and the spectators. Sports are not war. Even if the nature of the sport is to knock your opponent down, make him submit, or even knock him out, the unwritten laws of good sportsmanship still apply. When an athlete goes too far, and takes the sport so seriously that they are trying to permanently injure the opponent, they have lost their perspective and are not practicing good sportsmanship. Sometimes we forget that it is only a game. When the game is over, we still have to live with ourselves and those around that are in the game.

Camaraderie

Living with those that we play the game with is one of the highlights of sports. Most athletes would tell you that some of their best memories in life were made while playing a sport. And the people they played with, even the opponents are part of that experience. When people endure difficult feats, achieve great success or get their metal challenged on the field of play together, they bond. That bond, that brotherhood, will stay with the athletes for life. Even with their opponents, there is camaraderie amongst the athletes that have struggled against one another, in fair play and good sportsmanship.

When it is all over, and you can no longer run down that field, bounce that ball, swing that bat or ride that bike, what will be said of you? Will those who competed with and against you say that you were a good sport? Your integrity, respect and camaraderie will linger in the memories of your teammates and opponents long after you stop competing.

Jared Baldwin has been coaching youth sports for more than 15 years. He has been involved in sports as a coach, a fan, a parent and an athlete. He and his wife Tammy, and children Kayla, Andrew and Zachary lived on Guam from 2002-2009 and then returned to Guam in July 2011. He used to write for Directions magazine and works for Harvest as a cross country coach at Harvest Christian Academy and assistant Pastor at Harvest Baptist Church.

 

 

Part 3: Endurance

Part 2: Competition

Part 1: It’s Fun!

 

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