Let’s Revisit Good Sportsmanship - Again!

Unfortunately, as each new school year dawns, issues and concerns related to sportsmanship reappear. Printed below are excerpts from an Items of Interest newsletter penned in 2011. The values expressed are unchanged for all of us at the GHSA. The sentiments could not be better stated today: 

  • Sportsmanship is basically good citizenship demonstrated in the athletic arena, and it applies to:  player to player interactions, coach/player to official interactions; and fan behavior.
  • Sportsmanship is a concrete measure of a person’s understanding of and commitment to: fair play, ethical behavior, integrity.
  • Sportsmanship is the antithesis of “gamesmanship” in which competition takes on a Machiavellian philosophy - any means necessary to achieve the desired goal is acceptable.
  • Competition does not give people license to demean others - competitors are not enemies.
  • Leadership is critical for teaching AND modeling good sportsmanship. Adults should take the responsibility for that, but they are often the root of the problem.
  • Leadership is a function and not necessarily a role or position - anyone can be a leader.
  • A lot of learning about good sportsmanship today involves unlearning existing practices of poor sportsmanship. Highly visible coaches and athletes imprint inappropriate behavior on impressionable people.
  • Contrary to some noted writers, sports really don’t shape American cultural values. Athletics are a microcosm of social values that exist in all areas of life.o People are less civil to one another in many areas of interaction and it carries over into athletics, o Respect for rules and enforcers of rules is diminishing. Many people want to be able to “opt out” of rules they do not want to follow.
  • School-based athletics should exist for the enjoyment and educational benefit of the students, not for the ego of adults. Children and adolescents want to win; many adults need to win.
  • Adulation of young athletes over time may suggest to those athletes that they are bigger than the game and/or the rules of life. This is evident in the increasing number of athletes having run-ins with the law.
  • Unrealistic expectations forced on young athletes about scholarships and pro careers place extraordinary pressures on these athletes.

Gary Phillips, Executive Director

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