Question of the Week
November 8, 2004


What is good sportsmanship?

"'Good sportsmanship is about respecting your opponent, your coach, your teammates, and yourself,' he said. In practice, good sportsmanship often is about controlling one's own frustrations, while being courteous to all others involved in the sports experience...."

Good sportsmanship may bring to mind athletic competition; even if you are not an athlete, competition is a part of life.

"Most everyone who's played a childhood sport will remember the team forming a line after each game to shake hands with each of their opponents or give them high fives to congratulate them on their performance. These are visible examples of good sportsmanship that coaches often encourage their kids to display. ... The benefits that good sportsmanship provides to kids are life-long. Riera said that sportsmanship shows up in day-to-day adult activities such as good driving, and helps train good businesspeople to work through compromise. It also carries over into one's family life, in which family members learn to agree through disagreeing, realizing that nobody's perfect...."

Most people do not attempt an activity with the goal of trying to lose, but...

"All too often the name of the game is victory -- winning becomes the most important aspect to children (or their parents), and the pressure may lead to bad sportsmanship. While you may think forcing your child to practice every weekend or yelling encouragement from the stands is helping, it may be doing more harm than good. 'Be a good role model and make it clear that success for you is not solely defined by a score, but by a person‚s conduct and character,' says Dr. Hoffmann. 'If parents put too much pressure on their children to succeed, neither parent nor child will be prepared for failure. Make a point of rewarding your child for good sportsmanship, such as not cheating and being a good loser. That way, no matter the outcome of the game, your child can be proud of his or her performance.'"

Maybe you're not a parent, but never underestimate the influence of an older sibling, uncle, aunt, or peer... As an athlete, sibling of an athlete, coach for younger kids, or simply a spectator, you play a role in the development of sportsmanship in others, and sportsmanship (good or otherwise) plays a role in your life.

"Good sportsmanship is doing your best and having good behavior. It means working hard, learning, and following the rules of the game. It also means treating your teammates, your opponents, your coaches, and the officials with courtesy. When you congratulate opponents who beat you, you're practicing good sportsmanship. When you win and thank the other team for a good game, you're also being a good sport. But it doesn't just have to do with sports. The great thing about developing good sportsmanship is that it helps you in other parts of your life, too. Sportsmanship applies to other games (no pouting if you lose at checkers!), contests (don't storm off just because you lost the spelling bee or school election), and more. ... It takes maturity to put yourself in somebody else's place or to realize that no matter how good you or your team, somebody else can come along tomorrow and beat you. Remembering that will help you stay humble even if you're in first place right now.

Sports should be fun. Losing doesn't make you a loser, and a good winner doesn't brag or put down the other side. No matter which side you are on, it is important to find something nice to say.

Questions of the Week:
How can good sportsmanship be considered both a physical and a mental health issue? What responsibilities do you have as a coach, player, or spectator? How can your actions and attitudes influence the actions and attitudes of those around you? Even if you do not play--or even watch--sports, what role can sportsmanship (good or otherwise) play in your life?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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