In Search of Sportsmanship

Sportsmanship- a character trait that seems to be more and more elusive. Whether or not you spend time in the stadium, at the pool, in the gymnasium or any other venue, you are likely going to see poor sportsmanship (or a lack thereof).

If you read a “Code of Conduct” sheet that is given out for sports these days, you will  read a part that goes something like this…  “A Coach coaches, a Ref referees, Players play, and a Parent cheers.” Most of the time, there is a signature line that a parent and their athlete sign stating that they will abide by the rules. We didn’t always need these contracts.

The golden rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” seems to have fallen by the wayside.  Instead, our society has seemed to adopt a different rule- “Do unto others before they do unto you”. It is as though good conduct is looked upon as a weakness. From little league all the way to professional sports, it is not uncommon to see disrespect shown to anyone by anyone.

Why is this? A likely culprit is the general lack of respect that has been creeping into our society for decades. It began slowly, and has gained momentum quickly. I am sure that there has always been some level of disrespect shown in sports. Did it become rampant as a result of television and social media?  Live broadcasts, news reports, and social websites such as Twitter, have given  instant access to the negativity in the world of sports. Kids watch their sports heroes bite other players, get into fist fights, abuse a spouse or partner, yell at the refs, and even get caught cheating to win. The penalties? A couple minutes in the penalty box, a monetary fine, game suspensions- but then they see their hero back in action, and making it rain money. Often, the athlete or club appeals and the penality is lessened or dropped altogether. What is the lesson learned here? Truly not the lesson we want our child to learn, is it?

Let’s look a little closer to home. Our homes. Are we modeling the correct behavior that we want our child to show? Are we talking “down” to others? What are our children learning by seeing us yell at or be rude to wait staff in a restaurant, or disrespect an authority figure? Do we  make excuses for our poor behavior by blaming the other person saying “they made me do it” or “if they hadn’t…”?

Hopefully you are being a positive role model for your child. It is important to look for teachable moments as well. When we see another adult being a poor example, this needs to be addressed with our child. They need to know that this is not the correct way to deal with a situation or a person. Talk about alternatives that could have happened. This may be a personal moment, or even one we watch or hear about in the media. The root of sportsmanship is respect. And the root of teaching respect to our children begins with us.

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