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Good Sportsmanship - How to Develop It, Maintain It, and Teach It
By Grace Cunningham, Grade 8

What, exactly, is good "sportsmanship"? According to dictionary.com, it is, "sportsmanlike conduct, as fairness, courtesy, being a cheerful loser, etc." So, what does that mean? Well, say you have an important football game coming up. However, the whole week before, you and a kid on the opposing team take part in the traditional pre-game activity of trash-talking. One thing leads to another, and before you know it, you find yourself worrying more about which smart comeback to fire back with next than practicing and preparing for your game. Smack-talking exchanges usually end up getting in the way of your athletic performance and all-around peace of mind. It's also an excellent way to display your poor sportsmanship. Now, you may be laughing in your seat right now thinking, "Wow. It isn’t really that big of a deal." On the contrary, not having good sportsmanship, naturally, affects your attitude. Your attitude affects your team, and ultimately, it affects your game. By being a fair sport, you're benefiting both your team and your athletic effectiveness. You may even act like a sore sport in a joking way, but it's often best to just play it clean - both on and off the field.

Fair sportsmanship is actually something that you can develop - believe it or not. Don't worry, it's not anything you'll have to spend hours studying. All it takes is some respect and self-control. Think: there's one minute and thirteen seconds left in your soccer playoff game. The score is 3-2. With one more goal, your team could tie up the game just in time for a victory-deciding shoot-out, and you could be on your way to the championships. The ball is up-field, being passed back and forth between your teammates. All of the sudden, your teammate shoots on the opposing team's goal...and scores! Awesome. You start freaking out in celebration. Then, amid all of your team's excitement, the referee blows his whistle. Offsides. Your jaw drops, and you shout in complete disbelief. The equalizing goal is taken away, and your team is left with thirty seconds and a whole lot of disappointment. Standing next to the ref, you snap, "Are you serious? That is so unfair!" That reaction of instantaneous, angry outbursts definitely does not show good sportsmanship. It's very easy to lose your temper when things go wrong in competitions. Nonetheless, when you control yourself, rid your mouth of negative comments, stay positive, encourage yourself to keep trying, and respect the people around you, you're being a good sport. That sounds extremely cliche, and it's definitely easier said than done, but if you practice self-control and respect, keeping your cool will become more and more effortless.

Even if you don't have perfect sportsmanship yourself, it's helpful to encourage other teammates/athletes to be courteous competitors. That can be simpler than it seems. How? By setting a good example. You may not be the best player on your team, or the best athlete in your sport, but your peers will learn from you when you present honorable sportsmanship. The idea of people looking up to you based on the way you act competitively may seem fictional, but it can help others around you develop good sportsmanship. If a teammate strikes out, encourage them; don't hit them down. Your optimism and support may be just the thing that helps calm them down and picks them back up to give it another go. Positive chain-reactions can happen.

The next time you're sitting on the bench, watching your team play against the clumsiest team in the county, focus on cheering for your teammates, not bashing your opponents. When you think there's an unfair call, hold your tongue and try to center your thoughts on overcoming the setback, giving your team a boost to do the same. There may come a time when you completely annihilate another team, but don't rub it in their faces afterward. Stay humble and keep on improving your game. If you make an effort to keep an uplifting mindset, you'll see improvements in not only yourself, but in the people around you as well. So good luck! May the best sport win.

Sources:
http://dictionary.reference.com/ ; Personal Experience

Nicole
8/16/2011 10:34:45 pm

Great Article Grace!! I enjoyed editing it!

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