Thursday, 2 February 2012

True Sportsmanship

 I had just come home from a great game of indoor football. My team had played well - done our very best. We played several matches – won a few, and lost a lot more. But even so, we had had a great time! And that was primarily due to the sportsmanship of our opposition, and that of my own team as well. It is funny how easily the mood of a sport’s game can be changed with just one angry word, or a kind one.  The attitude of a sportsperson is just as vital as their skill on the court, field, or in the arena.

Different sport’s throw different challenges your way. A game of soccer, or netball might give you a pushy opposition player who keeps fouling you; a volleyball game, someone who doesn’t stay in their position; dancing, someone in your squad who doesn’t know the routine. Or it could be something as simple as a broken axle on your roller skate, a lame horse before the gymkhana – anything really….

One thing I have learnt over the years about good sportsmanship is that, just as often, it is oneself   doing the fouling, or encroaching upon one’s team mates, or who has forgotten the dance. I know that on my soccer team, I often let the side down, but my team have been amazing examples to me of how to be a good sport. They have shown me how to treat an annoying opposition member, or an annoying team mate, for that matter!

Personally, my biggest struggle when it comes to sportsmanship, is actually rather a strange thing: I have a hard time controlling my laughter if someone mucks up, or does something that occurs to me as funny. I don’t do it maliciously, I just have a rather too large sense of humour, and I often end up laughing at the expense of others. Maliciously intended or not, it is not the way someone should act on the sport’s field, or anywhere for that matter, and I have had to work very hard at not doing so!

Everyone has different stumbling blocks when it comes to being a good sport, and I highly recommend that you try and conquer them! Since I have gotten better about not laughing at people, I have had lots more fun playing, and I think people have enjoyed playing with me more too!

A mini Daisy reading the oath
I just had to add in this beautiful oath I had the privilege to read at a New Zealand national Artistic Roller Skating competition when I was 9…

“Winning or losing is a matter of skill, and the way it goes on the day;
but the honour lies in trying one’s hardest, in playing the game in spirit, and not in the letter of it’s laws;
In winning with modesty, and losing with gracefulness,
With the vision to see, the faith to believe, and the courage to do.” 

As those amazing words filled my head, I mentally expanded upon it all. Sportsmanship doesn’t just have to be reserved for the sport’s field, or the stage. Indeed, sometimes it takes even more courage to practice such skills away from the eyes of the referee, or your coach. But one must always remember that in the Game of Life, the ultimate “Referee” is always watching, and always sees.

The manners and courtesies practiced by all good sportspeople can easily be transferred into every aspect of every day life:

  • At the beginning of a sport’s game, you shake hands with the opposition players – do you always greet people warmly, no matter how you feel about them? Greeting people can improve things between you and the “opposition”, and leads to a better game – and better interaction in the Game of Life. A race of every kind is always run better when run in good spirit. 
  • Are you focused on the game? Do you keep the end goal in sight, and not let small incidents get in your way? By being focused on the end result, and letting go of the little things that happen – a shove in the back (accidental or not), a broken boot lace, a missing tool – you will play a better game and have more fun! 
  • Being a good sport doesn’t just mean being nice to the opposition, it also means playing your own game to the best of your ability, and not complaining when things go wrong. A positive attitude goes a long way to making things more fun and will gain other people’s respect (although that is not the reason why one should try!). 
  • Being a good winner – that’s the easy part! – and a good loser – not so easy. In life, you will win sometimes, and, perhaps, more frequently, lose. But only in the name of the game. If you are able to master the art of losing gracefully, you have learnt how to win as well! 
So, I challenge you, and myself as well, to try and live life in a way that demands explanation – I challenge you to practice good sportsmanship in every area of your world. It will not be easy, but it will most definitely be worth it!  

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