Time to lift the spirit of sportsmanship | Daily News

Time to lift the spirit of sportsmanship

Generations of Sri Lankan schoolboys were taught that if they aspired to become successful sportsmen they would always need to possess an extremely developed sense of competition. True, but in the same vein it was also instilled in us that to be good sportsmen we should never let competitiveness degrade our conduct both on the field and off.

In sport, as in life it is not all about winning but about playing fairly to the best of our ability. This means being generous in victory and gracious in defeat. As in everything else sportsmanship is no more than good manners.

Congratulating your opponents on skilful play, accepting the decisions of the referee or umpire with good grace are all part of the admirable rules of every game. And remember there are absolutely no excuses for whining, arguing, sulking or foot stomping tantrums.

Lamentably, the common attitude today is that players in most sports are out of control, above accountability and appear empowered to be absolved of responsibility by the bodies that pay them. Sadder still is the fact that the authorities that publicly condemn this type of abhorrent behaviour refuse to administer proper sanctions on the perpetrators.

But bad-tempered losers appear to be the rule rather than the exception in today’s sports arenas. Progressively more, however, this repugnant behaviour is becoming the preserve of professional sportsmen. However, given the monetary gains available for victory, good conduct is increasingly being side-lined in the quest for victory in professional sport. In a day and age when sports have such a global reach and influence over people’s behaviour, a renewed focus on improving the values of sportsmanship within both professional and amateur sports is crucial. But now comes the question of gamesmanship over sportsmanship. Gamesmanship can be defined as the art of winning unfairly at sport without actually cheating. If a player profits from an unfair advantage, covers up an unjust act, or intimidates his opponent by words or body language he is guilty of gamesmanship, which is the antithesis of good sportsmanship. Unfortunately, histrionic questioning of line calls, hectoring and haranguing referees and umpires and taunting and goading opponents permeate all levels of professional sport, from basketball, to tennis to soccer to rugby and cricket. It is scarcely surprising, therefore, that amateurs are apeing the less attractive attitudes of the professionals, and bending the rules in order to win.

While the majority of sportspeople strive to play their respective roles in a sporting manner, there are many who attempt to exploit ambiguities in the rules and resort to any advantages they can gain. They will argue that they are still performing within the rules, and as such are not doing anything wrong. However, whether or not they are within the rules, is different from displaying good sportsmanship and playing within the spirit of the game. There will always be arguments over whether bending the rules to win is acceptable and whether perfect sportsmanship is an achievable goal in modern sport. It is also clear that there are different levels of sportsmanship. While sledging in cricket may be accepted as a part of the modern day game, the growth of taking a dive and play acting in soccer should not be accepted as part of the game.

Again on the subject of cricket: Is there a difference between sledging and abuse? Sledging is an insult designed to distract or break another athlete’s concentration. It can often be offensive. Sledging has many vocal supporters who see it as harmless and equally as many people who condemn it as poor sportsmanship. Inoffensive light-hearted banter is one thing but insults and slurs are quite a different kettle of fish. Unfortunately, sledging does the game a disservice when it gets to certain levels. All verbal abuse is inappropriate, even if it’s considered mild. It brings the game down in the gentleman’s spirit of the sport.

Any tendency to employ these tactics should be eradicated. Good manners in sport are paramount, as in other aspects of life. Even if this means you lose again and again, at least you will be doing it gracefully. Good sportsmanship is something that should be strived for at all times.

For most of us, good sportsmanship comes naturally out of respect for others and the game we play. Our behaviour should never be swayed by our winning or losing. While good sportsmanship may come easily to most of us, sometimes those with an ultra competitive nature would obviously need a sharp slap on the wrist to put sportsmanship at the top of their game.

Actually the reputations of entire nations have been tainted by the revolting behaviour of their sportsmen and national teams. They come across as arrogant and whingers, to say the least. Humility or fair mindedness seem to have eluded many of them.

And whether you win or lose, it’s important to be well-mannered. Good losing means accepting defeat without pouting, anger, histrionics or moodiness, and congratulating your opponents on a good game. Good winning means shaking the hands of your opponents and thanking them for the game without gloating or taunting.

Children need examples in every aspect of their lives. Sportsmanship is no different. It starts when they are young and continues throughout their lives. It is vital for parents and coaches to show how to treat opponents respectfully.

Parents are the number one example that the child has. It is vital that you stay positive for your child. Keep all comments and encouragements constructive.

They are learning and developing at their own rate. Let them experience the sport for themselves and not your glory days. It is important that you recognise when they are not ready for a certain sport or if they need a break. Allow them time to grow and become who they are.

Take the time to help them develop their skills off the court or field. If they are having a hard time with a certain skill, take some one-on-one time with them. At game time, show good manners by being positive about your child, their team and the opponents. Cheer them on, even if they are not having their best game. It is easier to do better when you feel like you are accepted even when you aren’t playing your best.

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