If you're into sports, you've seen it happen. You've probably even experienced it: Football players shaking hands after four quarters of knocking each other around. Tennis players leaping over the net to shake hands with their opponents after a hard-fought match. Soccer players exchanging jerseys after an intense 90 minutes. Even boxers touching gloves at the beginning of each round, then hugging each other after beating each other into a pulp for 12 rounds.
It seems like competitors in every event, from spelling bees to hockey, behave this way. What's going on?
It's all part of sportsmanship, a great tradition in sports and competition that means playing clean and handling both victory and defeat with grace, style, and dignity.
What Is Sportsmanship?
Sportsmanship is defined as:
- playing fair
- following the rules of the game
- respecting the judgment of referees and officials
- treating opponents with respect
Some people define good sportsmanship as the "golden rule" of sports — in other words, treating the people you play with and against as you'd like to be treated yourself. You demonstrate good sportsmanship when you show respect for yourself, your teammates, and your opponents, for the coaches on both sides, and for the referees, judges, and other officials.
But sportsmanship isn't just reserved for the people on the field. Cheerleaders, fans, and parents also need to be aware of how they behave during competition. Sportsmanship is a style and an attitude, and it can have a positive influence on everyone around you.
Win or Lose, Sportsmanship Helps You Get Through
In the last few years, taunting, trash-talking, gloating, and cheap shots have become all too common in sports. You've probably seen athletes who take their own successes too seriously, too. They celebrate a goal with a prolonged victory dance or constantly brag about their abilities.
This is the exact opposite of what sportsmanship is all about. This kind of behavior might make you feel tough or intimidating to an opponent, but keep in mind it can also cause you to lose the match. Plenty of games have been lost to penalties gathered from "unsportsmanlike conduct."
Everyone feels great when they win, but it can be just as hard to be a good sport when you've won a game as when you've lost one. Good sportsmanship takes maturity and courage — when you work really hard at a sport, it's not easy to admit you made a bad play or that someone has more skills than you. In competition — as in life — you may not always win but you can learn something from losing, too.
It's pretty tough to lose, so it definitely doesn't help matters if someone continues taunting you or your team after the competition is over. Sometimes it's hard to swallow your pride and walk on. But there's always the next match.
When you do lose — and it will happen — don't take it out on your opponent, blame the officials, or blame your team. Take it in stride. When you lose, lose with class. Being proud of how you performed, or at least being aware of things you need to improve for next time, is key.
When it comes to losing, good sportsmanship means congratulating the winners promptly and willingly. Also, it means accepting the game's outcome without complaint and without excuses, even if you sometimes might feel the referees made a few questionable calls.
When you win, the trick is to be a gracious and generous winner. Good sportsmanship means acknowledging victories without humiliating opponents, being quietly proud of success, and letting victories speak for themselves. Even if you win by a landslide, good sportsmanship means still finding ways to compliment your opponents.
Practicing Good Sportsmanship
So what does it take to demonstrate good sportsmanship in real-life situations? Here are some examples of things you can do:
- Learn as much as you can about your sport. Play by its rules. Show up for practice, work hard, and realize that on a team, everyone deserves a chance to play.
- Talk politely and act courteously toward everyone before, during, and after games and events. That includes your teammates, your opponents, your coaches and their coaches, the officials presiding over the game, and even spectators (who can sometimes be loud about their opinions).
- Stay cool. Even if others are losing their tempers, it doesn't mean you have to. Remind yourself that no matter how hard you've practiced and played, it is, after all, just a game.
- Avoid settling disputes with violence. If you're in a difficult situation or someone's threatening you, seek help immediately from your coach or from an official. Remember, too, that if you respond with violence you could get penalized, which could hurt your chances of winning.
- Cheer your teammates on with positive statements — and avoid trash-talking the other team.
- Acknowledge and applaud good plays, even when someone on the other team makes them.
- When officials make a call, accept it gracefully even if it goes against you. Remember that referees may not be right every time — but they're people who are doing their best, just as you are.
- Whether you win or lose, congratulate your opponents on a game well played.
Fair and Fun
Good sportsmanship means not having a "win at any cost" attitude. Most athletes who don't have a "win at any cost" attitude are more likely to talk about how much they love their sport and how much personal satisfaction and enjoyment they get from participation.
Most people won't go on to play professional sports, and only a few will win scholarships to play at college. But many forget to have a good time during the years they do play because they're so focused on winning.
And, unfortunately, parents and coaches sometimes put too much pressure on athletes, emphasizing winning at all costs. So although it's great to be a champion, it's even better to have enjoyed the process of trying to reach the top. It's best to play fair while having fun.
Sportsmanship Off the Field
Learning good sportsmanship means finding that the positive attitude learned on the field carries over into other areas of life. At school, for example, you're able to appreciate the contributions made by classmates and know how to work as part of a team to complete a project. You may enjoy more success at work as well, because a big part of learning good sportsmanship is learning to be respectful of others, including customers and coworkers.
Sportsmanship is an aspiration or ethos that a sport or activity will be enjoyed for its own sake, with proper consideration for fairness, ethics, respect, and a sense of fellowship with one's competitors. A "sore loser" refers to one who does not take defeat well, whereas a "good sport" means being a "good winner" as well as being a "good loser" (someone who shows courtesy towards another in a sports game).
Sportsmanship can be conceptualized as an enduring and relatively stable characteristic or disposition such that individuals differ in the way they are generally expected to behave in sports situations. In general, sportsmanship refers to virtues such as fairness, self-control, courage, and persistence, and has been associated with interpersonal concepts of treating others and being treated fairly, maintaining self-control if dealing with others, and respect for both authority and opponents. Sportsmanship is also looked at as being the way one reacts to a sport/game/player.
The four elements of sportsmanship are often shown being good form, the will to win, equity and fairness. All four elements are critical and a balance must be found among all four for true sportsmanship to be illustrated. These elements may also cause conflict, as a person may desire to win more than play in equity and fairness and thus resulting in a clash within the aspects of sportsmanship. This will cause problems as the person believes they are being a good sportsman, but they are defeating the purpose of this idea as they are ignoring two key components of being sportsman like. When athletes become too self-centred, the idea of sportsmanship is dismissed.
Today's sporting culture, in particular the base of elite sport, places great importance on the idea of competition and winning and thus sportsmanship takes a back seat as a result. In most, if not all sports, sportsmen at the elite level make the standards on sportsmanship and no matter whether they like it or not, they are seen as leaders and role models in society.
Since every sport is rule driven, the most common offence of bad sportsmanship is the act of cheating or breaking the rules to gain an unfair advantage. A competitor who exhibits poor sportsmanship after losing a game or contest is often called a "sore loser" (those who show poor sportsmanship after winning are typically called "bad champs"). Sore loser behavior includes blaming others for the loss, not accepting responsibility for personal actions that contributed to the defeat, reacting to the loss in an immature or improper fashion, making excuses for the defeat, and citing unfavorable conditions or other petty issues as reasons for the defeat. A bad winner acts in a shallow fashion after his or her victory, such as by gloating about his or her win, rubbing the win in the face(s) of the opponent(s), and lowering the opponent(s)'s self-esteem by constantly reminding the opponent(s) of "poor" performance in comparison (even if the opponent(s) competed well). Not showing respect to the other team is considered to being a bad sportsman and could lead to demoralising effects as Leslie Howe describes if a pitcher in baseball decides to pitch not to his maximum ability suggest that the batter is not at an adequate level and could lead to the batter to have low self-confidence or worth.
There are six different categories relating to sportsmanship: the elements of sports, the elements of sportsmanship, clarifications, conflicts, balance and irreducibility. All six of these characterize a person with good sportsmanship. Even though there is some affinity between some of the categories, they are distinct elements. "In essence, play has for its directed and immediate end joy, pleasure, and delights and which is dominated by a spirit of moderation and generosity. Athletics, on the other hand, is essentially a competitive activity, which has for its end victory in the contest and which is characterized of dedication, sacrifice and intensity." (Feelezz, 1896, pp. 3) Hence, the virtues of a player are radically different from the virtues of an athlete. (Feelezz, 1896, pp. 3). When talking about misunderstanding sportsmanship, Rudd and Stoll (2013) provide an example from 1995, a U.S. high school athletic league banned the post-game handshake that was a part of sports such as football and basketball. The handshaking was banned because of fights that were ensuing after the handshake.(pp. 41) Most players are influenced by the leaders around them such as coaches and older players, if there are coaches and administrators who don't understand sportsmanship, then what about the players?
There are various ways that sportsmanship is practiced in different sports. Being a good sport often includes treating others as you would also like to be treated, cheer for good plays (even if it is made by the opposition), accept responsibility for your mistakes, and keep your perspective. An example of treating others how you would like to be treated would include being respectful and polite to other team members and the opposition because in return you would also like to be treated the same way. Cheer for good plays could include if in netball a player of the opposition made a good lead for the ball, which then resulted in a goal, everyone would either clap or make a supportive comment to acknowledge that what they player did was very well done. To accept responsibility for your mistakes will entail not placing the blame on other people.
Some popular examples of good sportsmanship include shaking hands, help an opponent who may have fallen over, encourage everyone, cheer, clap or hi-fives, and be respectful to everyone including teammates, the opposition, parents and officials. Most importantly it is often encouraged and said regarding sportsmanship that "It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game."
Sportsmanship can be manifested in different ways depending on the game itself or the culture of the group.
Sportsmanship can be affected by a few contributing factors such as the players' values and attitudes towards the sport and also the professional role models that are shown to the public. Role models in sport are expected to act in a moral and respectful way. When elite sporting role models do not encourage sportsmanship this can also encourage people in society to act in similar ways to the athletes that they look up to and idolize. For example, if an individual looked up to an athlete who was drinking excessively, they may see this as acceptable behavior. The direct correlation between sportsmanship and leadership is also considered to be another contributing factor. Having a positive environment in your sporting team will therefore create good sportsmanship from the individuals. Having a positive leadership by the captains, coaches and supporters would then encourage a positive sporting environment.
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- ^See, e.g., Joel Fish and Susan Magee, 101 Ways to Be a Terrific Sports Parent, p. 168. Fireside, 2003.
- ^David Lacey, "It takes a bad loser to become a good winner."The Guardian, November 10, 2007.
- ^Shields & Bredemeier, 1995.
- ^ abcAbad, Diana (2010). "Sportsmanship". Sport, Ethics and Philosophy. 4 (1). doi:10.1080/17511320903365227.
- ^ abcdGoldstein, Jay; Iso-Ahola, Seppo (2006). "Promoting Sportsmanship in Youth Sports". Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance. 77 (7). doi:10.1080/07303084.2006.10597902.
- ^ abClifford, Ken (2013). "Sport's also about sportsmanship". Newcastle Herald. 1 (33).
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- ^"MJD", "If he's going to lose, Bill Belichick would rather be elsewhere". Yahoo Sports, February 3, 2008.
- ^E-releases, "Super Winners and Losers" ("The Patriots' coach was eviscerated by sports pundits for leaving the field before the game was actually finished.")
- ^Howe, Leslie (2008). "Gamesmanship". Journal of the Philosophy of Sport. 31 (2): 212–225. doi:10.1080/00948705.2004.9714661.
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