‘Don’t Be That Guy’ - An Athlete’s Viewpoint on Good Sportsmanship

posted Sep 25, 2017, 5:00 PM by Ryan Allison

          School has been back in for a month and that means that Fall sports are in full swing. I thought writing a paper on the value of demonstrating good sportsmanship would be a relevant read for students involved in recreational and school sports. Sadly, there is also a need for adults to learn to honor the game, and that includes many professional athletes. Don’t be that guy that doesn’t value good sportsmanship.

          I have played team sports since I was in first grade, beginning with Paso Robles Pony Baseball league. Looking back when I first started playing baseball, kids as young as I, were just happy to be on the field holding a mitt, wearing a uniform, and swinging the bat. In fact, many kids this young sit in the outfield unaware of the game going on around them. Let’s face it, infielders rarely see action at this age. My point is, when children start sports at a young age they do not know (or care) about the stigma of losing or the gloating that comes with winning. Parents think every play (or non-play) their child does is cute, and coaches are not yet in it to win it. But, we tend to grow up and so does the expectations of parents and coaches.

          After my first couple of years playing baseball I noticed the difference in parents in the stands, teammates, and coaches. I realized that coaches and adults put value in winning, and teams were branded for losing. It seemed that parents were no longer just cheering and smiling from the bleachers, and coaches were losing their tempers, questioning plays, and games were stopped to review the rules. By the age of ten sports were serious business. That’s when it all started- that’s when I began to see teammates throw bats, throw helmets, walk off the field during practices, make fun of less skilled players, coaches throw clipboards, etc. My mom saw it to and that’s when we had ‘the talk.’ I remember my mom telling me about the word sportsmanship and what it meant. I remember her telling me win or lose it doesn’t matter-what matters is if I gave 100% to the game, my team, and the coach, and if I did that then she would be proud of me no matter the outcome. We talked about me being a leader on the field or the dugout. Be that guy that encourages and doesn’t discourage. I remember we made a deal that day that we would not embarrass each other. I would not embarrass her on the field with poor sportsmanship, I would hold my head high with a loss and thank my opponent for a tough game with a win, and I would always no matter the score on the board give the team my all. She agreed to not embarrass me in the stands with poor sportsmanship. She would be my biggest fan but would always be respectful to those around her and coach’s decisions. I am proud to say, from the day we made that pact, we have never disappointed each other, and I have played many years of baseball, football, and basketball.

          As athletes, we have all had those teammates that cannot win without gloating, lose with grace, or respect opponents, coaches, or the team. As responsible athletes, we need to recognize that behavior and be willing to be that guy who makes good sportsmanship legit on the field, court, and dugout. But, responsible athletes cannot do the job themselves. Coaches need to reward good sportsmanship and call out displays of poor behavior. Parents also owe a pledge to responsible athletes to cheer from the sidelines and be strong examples of what it means to be a good sport.

          My article would not be complete without talking about the need of   professional athletes to think about the influence they have over young athletes. We have all seen Odell Beckham Jr. and his sideline antics and tantrums. We have also seen his awesome end-zone catches. So, what do young athletes seek to imitate? His crazy skill or his character traits? Professional athletes are larger than life and closer to super heroes than human beings to the many young athletes that idolize them. I have many favorite players in the NFL, NBA, and the MLB. I am personally a fan of the athlete, more than a fan of an entire team. I have athletes I look up to across all professional teams (loyal to the core to Ducks football, however). I would be lying if I said I didn’t watch these athletes and dream of reaching those same levels of play. It’s hard not to desire to be just like them. But, since we can’t rely on all athletes to use their celebrity power responsibly the responsibility falls to parents and coaches for shaping young athletes character traits.  

          So, don’t be that guy. Don’t be that guy that no one forgets because of poor displays of behavior. Instead, be that guy that no one forgets because they played the game with integrity, determination, respect, and above all never put themselves before the team.

Weston Hooten

Kids Sports Reporter