Sportsmanship speaks volumes

In sports, every team battles it out for the top spot at the end of a game. The audience is kept on the edge of its seat, looking for the next big play or development. The fact of the matter is, there is always a victor and a loser.
A team produces an image on how it handles itself in these situations, and this image is projected to the audience. Then it is taken and broken down, and set into the minds, often of young people, on how an athlete is to project himself or herself on the field.
In covering sports of all types throughout the years, at both the professional and high school levels, I have often found it interesting to watch players’ mannerisms, since each player has a unique identity.
In hockey, players often celebrate after scoring a goal, and every goal celebration is unique to the player. But in coaching and playing I have often observed, and even been found guilty myself, of mirroring another player’s goal celebration.
In baseball, players have unique ways of stepping to the plate as they come up to bat. Some take deep breaths, while others have unique movements with the bat.
I have observed players in recent area high school games copying their favorite player’s mannerisms when coming to bat.
These observations have led me to look at a larger picture: How players act when they win or lose a game.
If young people are copying the game movements and manners of the professionals, what stops them from copying their celebration of wins or the image that they depict when they lose?
The answer is simple. The younger players already observe and copy those images and mannerisms. When a game is lost or a bad play is made, young athletes can often be seen throwing helmets, swearing, making obscene gestures or committing other acts that project to an audience much larger than themselves.
Coaches can often be seen fighting with officials, charging the mound or swearing at an umpire or a referee’s call.
The audience — the fans, especially the younger ones — see that image too.
In hockey, players often fight. It’s part of the game, and I am guilty myself. I have squared off with players twice my size and I have lost my cool at times. I wasn’t thinking about who may have been watching me.
I projected a negative image for children or young players. As an effect of that, a younger player may think that what I did is okay to do during a game or after a loss.
In reality, it is not okay. I made myself look bad and my team look bad, not to mention what I might have instilled in an impressionable young person. This is something that has to be taken into account by any athlete or coach at any level of play.
The act of how you carry yourself on and off the field of play will influence a far greater number of individuals than you may think. That is why it is important to show good sportsmanship at all times. Sportsmanship never starts and stops; it is constant.
I have broken sticks over goalposts or thrown my helmet in frustration after a major loss or a misplay. This was a negative image, and some child or children will probably remember that image and think it is OK to do the same in a game of his or her own.
As an athlete, you are a role model, a picture for another player or hopefully to look up to.
Florida quarterback, Tim Tebow was often seen kneeling in prayer before and after games, win or lose. That was a positive image. A player handing a child a stick or bat after a major loss is a positive image. Throwing a shoe at the umpire after a strikeout or bad call, is not.
The point is: Sportsmanship is one of the most major aspects of sports. A player’s action relays one-million words without one word being spoken.
Sportsmanship drives the future generation. Think about what you do and who it will affect before you do it.