THE most significant aspect of every game is the practice of good sportsmanship.
Of course there’s talent and hard work, which are both very important parts of sports, but without sportsmanship and self-discipline, there would likely be chaos throughout various levels of play.
Athletes would strive to practice sportsmanship either in success or defeat.
This vital aspect of the game is imperative not only as a practice of etiquette and respect in sports but also because it helps teach young athletes good behaviour that carries over into other aspects of life.
The recent occurrence where national cricket team fast bowler Nicholas Mubanga was handed a life ban by the Copperbelt Cricket Association (CCA) for beating up an umpire during a tense league match made sad reading.
It is unfortunate that in this era, the ugly scenes of violence and unruly behaviour during matches seem to have taken a toll on some of our players.
Nobody wants to lose a match but unruly behaviour must be nowhere near our athletes, officials and fans at large and to stamp them out of sports, we need to inculcate the values of good sportsmanship in our athletes.
One person’s irresponsible behaviour has the potential to dent the image of the sport and on account of this; I was compelled to highlight the importance of good sportsmanship in this edition.
Fair play, adherence to rules, respect for authority and kindness toward opponents are all values that are part of sportsmanship, but these ideals are also essential components of mature behavior in other contexts.
Athletes who display poor sportsmanship, including cheating, attempting to sabotage the other team and losing one’s temper when a referee makes a disputed call, are not only violating tenets of good behavior on the sports field, but are also acting generally rude based on wider, non-sports-specific social rules.
Sportsmanship is also important in the context of athletics in order to make the experience of play more pleasant for everyone involved.
For instance, an athlete who believes that it is appropriate to take pride when his or her team wins may believe that such pompous behavior is appropriate in other aspects of life.
While sports provide physical activity and competition, these activities are also forms of social engagement that are guided by a set of behavioral rules much in the same way that other activities like business lay emphasis on social behavior.
Sometimes games would get intense, heated and personal but sportsmanship must be learned in order to be practiced in sticky situations.
Having the mentality that ‘winning-is-everything,’ is a major reason why some athletes are thought to have such low moral reasoning abilities.
In an environment where winning is paramount, athletes tend to internalise the value that it is acceptable to do anything to win, even if it means cheating, bullying teammates, breaking the rules, intentionally injuring an opponent, or faking an injury to get a penalty or time out.
Officials are often the crucial element in a system of sanctions that ensures the rules are followed. As enforcers of equality they are there to preserve order.
Athletes should respect them for preventing the breakdown of the world of playful competition into a chaotic clash of self-serving individuals wills.
All athletes need opponents, or they couldn’t play the game; all athletes need good opponents who challenge them to excel, well-matched opponents who give their best. For that reason, respect for the opponent is the hallmark of sportsmanship.
The athlete should give their best effort, and their opponents owe their best efforts to them. Anything less than the best effort to win is just as disrespectful as trying to win by cheating or by disrupting the opponent’s mental state in ways that have nothing to do with the sport.
Taunting, trash talking, and other forms of behavior that exhibit disrespect for the opponent have no place in competition, because they display a misunderstanding of the nature of competition.
Celebrations of goals or victory that show disrespect for the opponent have no place in competition.
The spirit of sportsmanship has seen the post-game handshake become mandatory, not according to the rules, but by custom and tradition. It is an opportunity to thank the opponent for the competitive opportunity they have provided and to acknowledge their excellence.
Respect for teammates has to do with how athletes treat each other. Whether win or lose, athletes must desist from pointing fingers at one another.
The habit of respect must become part of every practice, every team meeting, every game, every celebration, and every athletic feast.
The essence of sportsmanship is to have clean, fun competition with the outcome of creating champions who excel both on and off the court. It is important that athletes, coaches and other administrators embrace the spirit of sportsmanship.
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